Introducing your children to gardening at a young age is a great idea. Gardening can get them outside in the fresh air, give them a sense of responsibility, and be a great opportunity for the two of you to bond.
However, like any activity performed with toddlers, gardening can easily degenerate into tears and frustration. Here are four tips for avoiding tantrums (and parental stress) when in the garden with your toddler.
1. Give Them Their Own Garden Tools
My daughter got her own gardening set from grandma and grandad for her birthday. She couldn’t wait to try it out for herself! She loves using her very own watering can, plant pots, and shovel. In the toddler stage, kids are figuring out “yours” and “mine.” Giving them a sense of ownership can make a big difference. In addition, adult-sized tools can be heavy and unmanageable for a small child and might even be dangerous. Tools specifically designed for young children are safer and easier for them to use. Bonus: if you buy your children their own tools, they’ll stop trying to take YOUR tools when you’re using them. (Although we can’t guarantee that your child won’t retain a persistent preference for “Daddy’s shovel.”)
2. Choose Toddler-friendly Tasks with Care
Make sure you give your toddler jobs they can tackle. Watering plants with a small, light watering can is a great example of a toddler-friendly job. Using a small watering can gives you some control over how much water your child ends up dumping into your garden. On the other hand, you might want to think twice before you put the hose in their hands.
Your toddler will enjoy helping you plant seeds, but for a smooth experience, you should choose seeds that are large enough to handle easily. Beans, sunflowers, and nasturtiums all have large seeds that are perfect for little hands! And if they happen to drop a seed, it’s relatively easy for you to retrieve it. On the other hand, if you pass your toddler a packet of carrot seeds, you might end up with a carrot patch emerging in the middle of your lawn.Some other ideas for toddler-friendly tasks include:
- Scooping potting soil into a planter
- Digging holes for new plants
- Planting annuals out in flower beds or planters (You may need to point out to your children that they should NOT swing the plant around by its leaves prior to placing it gently in the ground)
You can also try to entrust your toddler with the care of plants that are particularly exciting or rewarding. Flowers that are colorful and easy to grow are a great choice. Another great option is a familiar (easy) vegetable that they can enjoy eating.
3. Slow Down
It’s easy to get carried away with the number of tasks on your garden to-do list. But don’t be so focused on achieving your goals that you don’t get to enjoy the process. If you’re gardening with a two-foot-tall buddy, it’s going to be impossible to get as much done as you could on your own. Trying to check things off your list at breakneck speed will make your child feel like he/she is in the way. It will probably stress you out too. If getting less done makes you anxious, try to remember you’re multitasking! You’re getting a small amount done in your garden. You’re spending time with your child. And you’re teaching your child a new skill.
4. Let it Go . . .
We’re not suggesting you allow your toddler to turn your garden into an ice palace (!). But give them enough freedom to make their experience enjoyable. If you hover anxiously over their shoulder, you’ll be frustrated and stressed out, and so will they. Remember: the goal at this age is to instill a love of gardening and the outdoors. It is not to make your child the next TV master gardener.
It can help you to be less anxious about your toddler’s experiments if you assign them their own patch of flower bed (away from your most prized plants). If you don’t have flower bed space to spare, maybe they can have a planter or two instead. That way, if they over-water or accidentally step on a plant, you don’t have to be too worried about it. One of the great things about gardening is that you are constantly figuring out new, better ways to do things. Give your toddler a chance to do the same!
Of course, it’s not always easy to figure out how to landscape your yard so that you and your adult guests can enjoy it as much as your kids. If you need some help coming up with ideas for incorporating toddler-friendly space into your landscape, don’t hesitate to contact Homescape Now.