I’ve never enjoyed grocery shopping. Period. But the experience became more palatable when I started taking my daughter to wander the produce section and explore the shapes, colors, textures and smells of the fruits, veggies and herbs. We initially started this activity to occupy ourselves (well, for me to occupy myself) while my husband, who is a methodical shopper, went aisle by aisle. I saw this as a healthy alternative to following him around and grumbling, “are we done yet?”, and we’ve since found psychological (read: I no longer torture him while he’s comparing prices on peanut butter) and nutritional improvements because of this effort to divide and conquer.

Despite the sanitary concerns, it was a proud moment for me when I busted my baby toddling over to the green beans, carefully selecting one and walking off with it as a snack. And now that she’s almost 3, our adventures in produce have progressed from learning colors and names to basic math, shapes and letters. We’ve also addressed aforementioned concerns about eating unwashed produce.

We’ve started to talk about where things grow – on trees, underground, on vines, etc. – and this year, we’ve planted our very own vegetables, berries and herbs in the backyard (so now she swipes snacks from the yard instead). Planting seeds with the anticipation that they will sprout and grow into plants that will bear the same fruits and vegetables we see in the store is just about the coolest phenomenon ever, according to my daughter. She takes pride in helping me water, pull weeds and holler at the dogs when they traipse through our freshly cared-for plot. She even helped my husband and I build a fence and install a small sprinkler system in our newest garden.

But what I love about this project for any home is that you don’t need a ton of space to pull off a home garden. Raised beds and container gardens are simple to build, easy to maintain and still provide the same delicious results as a larger garden plot.

In our family, gardening is an activity with measurable results. We can watch our plants grow and change, grab snacks or additions to meals we’re cooking and, much like at the dinner table, our time spent tinkering in the garden is perfect for sharing conversation. Best of all, our daughter is thrilled to help prepare and eat the food that we worked together to grow.

That’s not to say she always eats her veggies, or that she’s ever interested in the same veggie for more than a week at a time, but involving her – and ourselves – in the process has definitely made “eat your veggies” an easier conversation to have in our house.