Getting children to eat vegetables is a dilemma most parents face at some point during the child-raising years. Experts and experienced parents suggest offering dips like ranch dip or hummus, supplying lots of vegetables at a young age, and even putting smiley faces on them.

Another strategy is to get kids in the vegetable garden. Parents find that kids who grow vegetables frequently go on to eat those vegetables. That’s the strategy behind Powerful Plants, a company that sells organic vegetable seed packets and books about those vegetables with a technological twist. I saw a demonstration of Powerful Plants at a recent festival I attended, and it’s really kind of cool.

The idea behind Powerful Plants

“Powerful Plants is ‘edutainment’ for children,” said Al Benner, a father of twin sons and the idea man behind the product. “By embracing a cutting edge technology called augmented reality, our endearing cast of plant characters come to life right on our seed packs and on the pages of our interactive book. As a result, kids are instantly drawn to our brand and we catch their attention. Before they know it, they are learning all kinds of amazing facts about plants, world history, our environment and how to grow and prepare their own healthy food.”

Benner came up with the idea a couple of years ago when his sons were playing with Pokemon cards. His first thought was to offer trading cards with a book about superhero plants, but then he realized he could offer more. The idea morphed into selling packets of heirloom seeds and books that featured Powerful Plants, enhanced by the cutting-edge technology that draws kids in.

The plant characters in the book and on the seed packets have names and superhero-like powers. They are out to help kids protect soil, air, and water while encouraging them to become more aware of their environment and surroundings.

Through the book and the talking characters, kids learn about microbes, bacteria, fungi, micro-nutrients and more — things that go into making a vegetable healthy that traditional, non-talking seed packets don’t explain.

“Plants really are incredibly powerful,” said Benner. “They sustain human life and the entire planet. Without them there would be no life as we know it here on Earth. The magic stored in tiny seeds is incredible and watching plants grow helps connect children to the natural world. I’ve seen it first hand with our boys.”

Powerful Plants seed packets and books

Kids' reactions

Benner has several stories of Powerful Plants sparking kids’ interest in vegetables — like that of a 5-year-old who can't stop talking about kale and insisting his mom go out and buy kale right away. Previously, he had not been interested in vegetables at all. He also tells of an 8-year-old girl who asked her father if they can start a vegetable garden after getting some seeds and enjoying the videos for each character.

Even the guests at Benner’s sons’ birthday party who planted seeds as a party activity are now watching them grow in their own homes every day and making sure they are watered. After weeks of care, you can be sure those kids will eat what they planted. 

The combination of technology, information and hands-on activity seems to accomplishing Powerful Plants' goal — to educate kids about plants and interest them in eating healthy foods.

Getting kids involved

Powerful Plants seeds and books are available online. The app needed to make them come to life is free for iOS and Android devices. The company offers discounts to teachers who want to purchase items for their classrooms, and a complete STEM learning platform for elementary teachers is in the works for next year.

Powerful Plants is also about to kick off its first contest. Later this month, it will hold the “Design the Next Character" contest with prizes like the Powerful Plants Collectors Set for the grand prize winner.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.