Mother Nature’s outdoor spaces provide children with some of their most important lessons. Just ask any adult who remembers the joy of discovering critters along creek beds, wildflowers in the woods, and shiny rocks in rushing streams. When it comes to learning about food, children love visiting farms, planting a garden, and cooking what they harvest.

Below are three simple questions to help your child think more critically about the connections between their natural environment and nourishing food:
1. Where does my food come from?
2.  How was it produced?
3. Why does it matter?

For example, the next time you pour a glass of milk, talk about the cow who produced it, the farmer who cares for it, and what the cow eats.

Thanks to research at Washington State University,  we’ve learned that a cow’s diet strongly influences the nutritional quality of her milk. For example, organic cows spend more time grazing on pasture (grass);  therefore, their milk contains higher amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, as compared to milk from conventional cows.

The omega-3 fats are especially important for pregnant women and young children because they are key in nerve, brain and eye development.

Because  we find omega-3s in the fat portion of milk, organic whole milk provides the more wholesome choice for growing bodies. Plus, one cup of whole milk only has 20 more calories per 1 cup serving compared to two-percent milk. Research also shows that children who drink two-percent  and whole milk are less likely to be obese than those who drink skim milk.

Here’s a delightful story to start a conversation about how the quality of our food is influenced by nature. Encourage questions, and you’ll nourish your children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder.

Julia Lanier enjoys learning in her garden.

Julia Lanier enjoys learning in her garden.