There is nothing I like more than getting to play in the dirt with my son! We started when he was 2 with “poking holes” and doing seedlings. On a rainy day I brought in a bucket of dirt, he got to pick the seeds and then poked holes to make sure we got one seed in each cup.
The smile on his face was pure joy! Now he is 4 years old and we still enjoy this ritual. Here are a few key things I found work best when gardening with a toddler.
1. Embrace the mess.
You are going to play with dirt. Hopefully the weather is nice enough that this can be a mostly outdoor activity but if you are forced to be indoors not to worry, just make the necessary preparations. For us the first time we wanted to do seedlings the weather was kind of nasty. Our back up plan was my mop bucket full of dirt and the craft table in our kitchen. Here I used a wine crate to organize all of the containers to be used for seedlings. Owen got to sit comfortably and poke holes while I placed a seed in each hole.
2. Make your kiddo a part of as many steps as possible.
Once the seedlings are planted it was Owen’s job to water them. He took this chore very seriously (which did flood our window sill once or twice). He also was responsible for planting with me. Now, during this step be prepared. Many plants will not survive (would add a seed to the plants I knew were not going to make it). That way something still grew! I also try to make all of the associated chores fun For example now when we have to water the garden he gets to pretend to be the fire fighter with the hose and the garden is “on fire”!
3. Pick things that are hardy … by that I mean things that will survive a toddler and will grow easily.
OK by far the easiest thing to grow is radishes! They sprout super fast and they grow quickly too. Makes a great item to plant with kids for a quick result.
4. Pick colorful plants.
Again, radishes are wonderful because they get to pull something exciting out of the ground. I also have grown to love the kaleidoscope carrots. I must admit these were a nightmare for me to do as seedlings. They were so delicate nothing made it. This time though, I direct planted in the raised bed and no issues. They have come up great! And it is so fun to try and guess what color each carrot will be when Owen pulls it out of the ground. I think the purple are his favorite.
5. Be prepared to do battle with birds, squirrels, and other creatures who might like to munch on your garden.
As I am writing this I am waging a war myself with squirrels. I had planted sub flowers. A great plant for toddlers as they grow quick, huge and are colorful with tasty little seeds. Now, the squirrels have learned to climb the flowers and literally devoured everything! I was prepared with the tomatoes and the other veggies int he raised beds. I have lids over the strawberry bed with chicken wire and I have curtains of bird netting over the other two raised beds. But my sun flowers I was not prepared. Not sure how I will solve that one but stay tune! For now this round the squirrel is winning.