Did you know that playing in the dirt can be good for your brain, heart and relationships? This time of year, many of us consider planting a garden so that we can provide healthy foods for our families. What we may not realize is that while we’re planting, we’re enjoying more than just the promise of tasty vegetables.

I have 3 kids, ages 12, 10 and 5. They are at different developmental stages, so I have to be creative when it comes to finding things we can all do (and enjoy!) together. Bike riding is a hit. So is going out to eat and swimming.

But this year, I’m trying something new: gardening as a family.

We picked up our plants on a gorgeous spring Saturday, a few days after our official frost date. Our youngest got right into the act of digging and planting, as did our oldest. Our middle child? Not so much.

Luckily, we consider two out of three a smashing success in our household. We planted, watered, frolicked, danced, sang (OK, so maybe not those last three), and then snow struck.

We had to scramble to find and empty every container in the house and garage that was big and sturdy enough to cover our new veggies. We covered our plants and crossed our fingers that they would be protected from the hail, 12” of snow, and 20 degree temperatures that ensued for the next four days.

And guess what? They were. All but just a few survived the absolutely miserable weather. We were able to uncover them and let them bask in the Colorado sun yet again. Hopefully for good this time.

Here are some lesser-known benefits of gardening.

It requires patience.

Patience is a trait that many of us struggle with, particularly in our fast-paced, instant-gratification society. Plants, on the other hand, have their own schedules and timeframes, and it is up to us to practice patience as we wait for our crops to arrive.

It’s active.

Gardening is a great way to keep our bodies active, without having to deal with annoying gym memberships or spandex. Lifting, digging, weeding – it’s all great for our heart!

It can be a family affair.

Sometimes it’s hard to think of fun, active, outdoorsy things to do with our kids. Luckily, gardening can be adapted to most age groups and abilities, making it the perfect way to spend low cost, quality time as a family throughout the summer.

It’s great stress management.

The American Psychological Association recently released a study indicating that Americans are experiencing high levels of stress, and our kids are experiencing it, too. Gardening can be a great way to manage stress and get our minds off the “business” of life.

Our plants are still pretty small and a little rough looking, but we are all hopeful that come August, we will have a bountiful harvest with which to try out some new flavors and recipes. Even with the tough start, gardening is proving to be a pretty successful family activity. Resilience, patience and perseverance can be difficult concepts to teach young kids, but we have already learned the importance of all three!