Spring has sprung in my neighborhood and I could not be more excited to spend time outdoors with my family! My toddlers are glad to be able to work out their wiggles in the sun after a long winter stuck inside. And I’m glad that we are spending more time together! It’s nice to be able to do bigger projects together now that my son is a little bit older and my daughter is walking like a champ. One of my favorite springtime activities is gardening. This year, I’ll be planting a vegetable garden - with a little help from my toddlers. Toddler-friendly gardens are easier than you might think! Use the elements that work best for your little ones.
Babies and toddlers need sensory input to learn and grow. Gardening with kids doesn’t have to be hard work - in fact, it should be like play for the little ones! Pump up the fun in your own garden with plants and accessories that appeal to sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Flowers like honeysuckle provide high contrast color and lovely scent. In fact, if you catch honeysuckle blooms at just the right time, you can even squeeze a drop of nectar onto your baby’s tongue! As always, be sure your plants are kid-safe.
One of my favorite tips for gardening with toddlers is giving them their own toddler garden! By designating a space just for them, you give toddlers the chance to take responsibility and invest in their garden. Or, you know...to destroy a piece of land that isn’t your own carefully manicured garden! Even if that garden becomes a mud pie factory, the toddler garden keeps everyone happy all season long.
RELATED: Get Outside With Your Family
Kids that are younger might need a bit more entertainment than older toddlers. If they’re just a bit too young to grow their own plants, consider adding a bin of outdoor toys to hold their attention. These could be gardening-specific, but more importantly, they should be sturdy enough to withstand weather conditions. In my experience, toddlers are eager to please and will be happy to help with simple tasks. Letting them pull supplies in a wagon, giving them a small watering can, or even turning on the hose can be huge highlights in a toddler’s day. Isn’t that the point of gardening together? To learn and grow and enjoy your time as a family while doing something productive?
While some kids are big enough to use “grown-up” garden tools, others still need a bit more built-in safety. Montessori supply companies offer gardening tools built for little hands. Unlike toy tools, these are real working tools! Your toddler can use these tools in their own garden plot right alongside you.
Growing vegetables and fruits that your kids will love makes it easier to convince them to help tend the garden! Of course, make sure anything you plant in your garden is safe around kids. Beyond that, consider planting foods that are easy to sow and grow. Favorites at our house include carrots, green onions, watermelon, and green beans. Try planting a few plants that are fast to germinate and mature - radishes, for example, are ready for harvest in only 25 to 30 days. Rapid plant growth is easier for toddlers to track and get excited about!
Once your toddler-friendly garden is in place, you can use those vegetables to teach your toddler about all sorts of things! Use the vegetables to describe the size of an unborn baby - "Mommy's baby is the size of a butternut squash!" Harvest your vegetables as a family and cook a meal together! Practice your colors and numbers while you pick your bounty. And most of all - have fun gardening with your toddler!