Today the verb I inserted was "Gardening." Like anything with kids and a toddler in particular (given anticipated egocentrism and still developing language skills) normal activities are altered and slowed. Before gardening, we must get dressed, agree to wear shoes, sometimes find shoes, put on sunscreen, fill water bottles, say bye-bye to inside toys, collect phone, gather a snack, change diaper, etc. This occurs with a toddler vascillating between signing "outside" emphatically and trying to "help" with each task.
When we get outside, more challenges await. My child loves to be outdoors and we try to get out every day for various activities. Thus, he can self entertain, but still needs to return to me periodically for check-ins or to chat. A few ideas for entertaining a toddler while you garden include side walk chalk, trucks and cars for the sidewalk, little kiddo version of tool shop for making and fixing, sandbox, balls, a dog, and some other new things. In our backyard, all of the above (except chalk) are used and most were free (except the dog who is special needs). I have learned a few new tricks that I wanted to share and due to my penchant/love/obsession with lists, you guessed it: Here is the list.
- Always wear "play clothes" or just leave pjs on (today we did the latter)
- We made coffee filter flowers for Mother's Day and thus found out water spray bottles are fun. So an old spray bottle now stays in our backyard.
- Toddlers like to help "water" plants. The result though is wasted water, wet and happy toddler, wet and not so happy mama. After many of such situations, I learned a lesson. Turn hose sprayer to "mist" which decreases all of the above results...:)
- We have a "pocket size" backyard so all our veges are in flower beds around perimeter of yard. Prepare to know that plants will be trampled. Today, I enjoyed a lovely smell of basil while my baby basil plant cried under the sandal of said toddler.
- Kid sized garden tools are great fun, but be prepared for them to dig up your favorite plants. Thus, we like our old fashioned plastic turtle sandbox. It was used and free. The cover prevents it from becoming a special place for neighborhood animals.
- We have a back alley, so watching things go by is great entertainment and in particular the garbage and recycling trucks. This also is a great time to begin discussing both of these services. My son at almost 2 when asked will take something to our recycle bin and knows where the compost bin is but it is too tall for him to participate.
- Remember toddlers love to mimic so be prepared that they will "help" you gather crop from your garden or pull weeds. Just remember they do not have cognitive ability to differentiate a weed from a pretty flower. Thus, I am teaching B to smell not pick flowers (great advice from my mom friend K). Toddlers HAVE to HAVE a replacement action when asked to stop another action. Thus, B smells flowers by rubbing his lips rather than nose back and forth across flowers.
- With enough activities, snack, water, and many gardening experiences, your toddler will happily enjoy a couple of hours or all morning in the garden with you.
The Compromise: Gardening with a kid has led to voluntary grass and bug ingestion, searching for worms and hanging on to said worm longer than it could endure, and sad basil (see above)
The Sweet Reward: Your toddler learns to love the great outdoors, actually knows where food comes from, appreciates nature, and given indiscriminate ingestion of garden goods you have another reason to garden organically as we do. :)