This is not our first year of gardening, but each year E and V have been able to participate in new and exciting ways. (You can read about previous years here and here.)
We moved this past fall, so our gardening areas will look differently. At the old house there were two areas: one in the front for family meals and the other in the back that was all for E and V. This year we only have the area that consists of three planter boxes. These boxes were located just outside of our fence, but we recently expanded thus including them in.
I loved the idea of having easier access, for me and the girls. That being said, the execution of gardening with toddler has ben an experience. They are learning about and seeing seeds in action (another seed activity we enjoyed). You could say that gardening has been, yet another, great homeschooling opportunity (the joy of homeschooling is that pretty much anything can be turning into a learning opportunity). Gardens help with patience–so…much…waiting!
E and V helped start the sprouts in the spring. Transferring dirt, assisting in choosing seeds to plant (can’t decide between cherry or pear tomatoes and don’t have space for both, ask a tot), and watering.
The biggest curve we’ve experienced is weeding. I had the perfect plan: mark off areas for their weeding pleasure. This did not work for more than a moment. Children know when they aren’t being given the full responsibility they desire. In this case, the same as mama. Because of this, weeding was seen as a temptation and something to be run and done when I turned around. This wasn’t good as it means that their needs aren’t being met and it resulted in the weeding of a tomato and paper plant.
So what to do? Rather than just mark an area out (this was perfect the year before) I now mark the plants NOT to pull (this works for my children, the opposite may work best for yours). This includes the really big tomato plant that already has a cage around it, why? Consistency. They need one consistent marker to see and understand that they are not to pull that plant. This has worked really well. Sating that, I ensure I pull the weeds directly surrounding the plant so there’s no confusion as to what plant is under the protection of the wooden marker.
While this is great, we were still lacking an area that was 100% all theirs. Enter two larger pots, dirt, and flowers. These are their plants to do as they wish. When one of them chose to dissect one of their flowers, I gently asked if she’d like me to model planting–the answer was “no”–so I kept silent. I actually started reading as the desire to interfere was too strong (I do hate to see living things not treated well). They still assist with watering and weeding the main garden, but these are there areas.
We recently moved their playhouse. The flower boxes on their playhouse are now accessible and became another, clear, designated area that is all theirs. It’s really important that each of them have their own area–their own pot and their own flower box.
If we didn’t already have flower boxes I would’ve purchased some as the are clear, designated areas.
Back to the patience of gardening bounty–that wait is tough. To assist with the learning of patience, and understanding that the girls just turned three, we made sure to plant things so that goodies come in staggered. Herbs came in the quickest (I even bough a few plants as we make our own pesto) and then the green beans (which, for some oversight, was actually started indoors). Tomatoes are creating a bit of temptation–there they hang, all green and round–yet not even close to be ready.
We include E and V when we try something new. We tried a Santa Claus melon the other day and decided to dry the seeds to see if they would grow. Will they grow plants? If plants grow, will fruit? We will see. E was rather eager to begin this experiment and, once the seeds were dry, planted a few–we saved the rest for next year, if indeed they are fruitful. We talk about Grandma N’s experiment–she’s using two different soils to see if one is truly better for seeds than the other. In a few years, continuing this types of experiments, they will be marking their own results. (I’m planning on a mushroom growing in the future to see what they think, not sure how near yet, maybe a fall activity.)
Those are how we make gardening work for us, how do you garden at home with your toddlers?
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