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Toddlers in the Garden

Last night I was working on a project in the garden and my husband and son were out in the garden helping me. Every time I turned my back my son, aged 2, would run over to one of the ground cherry plants and pull off the unripe fruit and eat it, and it was DRIVING ME NUTS! I couldn't enjoy anything I was doing because I had to distract him every minute. As you know, my garden is my sanctuary so I hate feeling negative emotions when I am in my happy place. So what did I do, I made my son his own little sanctuary within my sanctuary.

Where to start?

First, I gave up my fight for the ground cherry plant and declared it his plant to do as he pleased with. I have two more ground cherries and instead of getting mad I should have appreciated how excited he was to be in my garden harvesting and enjoying his own fruit.

Make your kiddo their own little section of the garden that they know is theirs, with plants and even flowers they know they can do whatever they want with. This will get them excited to come with you to the garden, but it is also a great way to teach them to be gentle, and that plants are special things that we have to take care of.

I added a little baby bench to the garden that is the perfect size for him to sit in and just look at things. I catch him just standing and staring at all the plants and flowers, so this gave him his own little spot to plop down and enjoy the garden. Now I know that not every 2 year old will sit still ever, but if you have an introspective babe it may be worth a try to give them a little seat in your garden. You can make the seat fun and it doesn't need to be expensive or fancy (the seat was given to us by my MIL). Look for things you have lying around, you can use an old tree stump you have been meaning to get rid of or even make a stool or bench out of old wood you have, this also creates another fun project for you and your kiddo, and gives them their own spot to hang out.

Next up...probably the most important one SNACKS! (see photo above....snack pouch on bench is KEY). Yes the garden is full of snacks, and my son loved running to the garden to grab the peas off the vines to snack on but then seasons changed and the peas had to go. We replaced the peas with cucumbers but as you know growing takes time and patience, something most 2 year olds lack, and my son was getting tempted to go take a bite out of the GREEN tomatoes. So to keep the excitement up and garden destruction down BRING SNACKS EVERY TIME YOUR CHILD ENTERS THE GARDEN.

Another way to keep your kiddo happy in the garden, especially if you have something you really need to get done and need more than a moment at a time to accomplish, is BUBBLES AND SHOVELS. T is currently obsessed with bubbles and they are such a fun outdoor activity (you will see them under his bench in the photo above and the lawn mower is a bubble machine).

Another fun option is to designate a little spot that your kiddo is free to dig and play with the dirt in! Get mini gardening tools and a bucket and set that kiddo free. My son is not a fan of miniaturized toys, he wants to play with the big boy toys so if you are comfortable with that, save your money and give your kiddo your hand shovel! It is good for kids to get their hands dirty but also so very important to protect your precious plant babies.

WATER! So, I will be honest, I do not let T play with the hose in the garden even though he loves it. It puts my anxiety on high alert watching him flood my plant babies. So what I do instead is give him small amounts of water at a time, usually in the watering can, sometimes a random cup we have lying around, and let him water that way. This gives him the feeling that he is helping without driving me CRAZY. If you are comfortable or have more open space in your garden where your kiddo can go wild with the hose, LET THEM! I guarantee they will love every minute of it and you will too!

SEEDS! I collected a bagillion marigold seeds last fall and had a giant bag of them even after giving tons away and planting my own, so every now and then when we go outside I give him the bag of seeds and let him sprinkle them around as he pleases. This might make some gardeners crazy but he has so much fun helping and contributing. Worst case one sprouts where you don't want it to you can transplant it or even just pull it out.

Showing me his sunflower seed.

If you aren't down for a toddler, seed free for all, let them help you plant seeds with your direction. I usually make the hole and let him drop it in, and just doing that makes him so happy!

Okay the final tip, and my sons absolute favorite part of gardening, THE HARVEST! Let them help you harvest the goods! This is a tough one for me because T wants to harvest EVERYTHING but the excitement on his face when he pulls a carrot out of the ground or a tomato off of a plant makes it all worth it. The more they get to help harvest, the sooner they will know what is ripe and ready and what needs to keep growing and be left alone.

It has been so much fun sharing my garden with my son and watching him grow beside the plants. Just remember, it is also okay to take moments alone for yourself in your garden. If you are planting seeds and need them done in a particular way, or you just need a baby break, I understand. My garden is my sanctuary and I am happy to welcome my toddler in as long as he keeps his little hands off my unripened veg!


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