Over the last year we’ve come to realise that gardening with babies and toddlers in tow can be quite a challenge, especially if you’ve got a little firecracker like our boy Henry, who doesn’t want to sit still for a minute, but has to be supervised at all times as he’s only just 1!
However we’ve also discovered that there are plenty of gardening activities that you can include the baby in, no matter how young they are!
Henry was born in August, so from a very early age we’d take him outside and sit or walk with him round the garden, so he got used to being in our outdoor environment very quickly.
We also introduced him to our chickens when he was tiny and we’ve gradually built up his interaction with them, to the extent that he now happily chases them round the garden and pets them!
We want vegetable gardening to be second nature to Henry, so we’re already involving him in regular tasks like collecting the eggs and watering the tomatoes, but there are many other activities that we set up for him in the garden as a way of introducing him to our way of life.
When Henry’s older he will have his own section of the vegetable garden that he can tend and develop himself, but until then, we get him sowing seeds in the main garden!
Pick a crop that doesn’t need to be sown carefully in rows, such as annual herbs (parsley, basil, chives, dill, for example) and prepare the soil yourself first, then let your little one scatter the seeds from the packet! It doesn’t matter if they don’t all fall in the right place!
You could also do this with a tray of compost and seeds that you’ll later thin out and plant out, such as cauliflower, kale, cabbage, lettuce, or anything you fancy! Remember, formal gardening rules don’t have to apply when you’re including a baby in the action!
Once you’ve sown your seeds, keep going back to check for germination and let your little one see how they’re developing!
This is an easy one, get a toy watering can and fill it with a little bit of water, it doesn’t matter whether the garden or the baby get a good soaking, it’s all about learning and having fun!
Eventually, your plants will get watered regularly too!
We always plant our potatoes in tubs, which we’ve discovered works really well with having little ones!
Henry loved helping us to dig up the main crops in July, just as much as he loved playing with the compost!
He was just at the age where taking things in and out of containers was his main pastime, so this suited him perfectly!
Carrots also make a great harvest for babies if they’re loosened a bit first, seeing the orange appearing from the soil makes a great surprise! Be careful with radishes though as the leaves can be prickly!
Let Them Eat!
Henry has been weaned in the garden, whenever anything’s in season, it’s been fed to him either as a snack or in his meals!
We let him eat straight from the garden as much as possible, soft fruit and tomatoes are the best crops for this – we just keep a little bowl of water to hand that we can dip the goodies in before he tucks in!
This is a great way of getting an active little one to actually stay in one spot for a while!
We bought a cheap ‘tuff spot‘ – basically a tray that builders use for mixing cement in – and we fill it with various things to keep him occupied.
Water on hotter days, or sand, cornflakes, porridge oats, compost, clean plant pots, toilet roll tubes, whatever you can think of!
It also saves on splashing out on a sandpit, and is really handy when you’re potting up seedlings yourself!
We always have an abundance of herbs growing in our garden so as soon as Henry could grasp things, I’d put a sprig of lemon balm or mint in his hand for him to play with.
Now he’s a little bit older, we’ll pick various leaves and let him play with them in his tuff spot or on the lawn, they’re all edible if he decides to have a chew, and he loves ripping them up and throwing them around!
Lettuce, mint, basil, lemon balm, parsley, spinach, and any other edible leaves work well for this!
This is a good activity to coincide with some pruning in the garden!
That’s just a few ideas of how to get babies and toddlers involved in the garden!
The important thing to remember is, never leave the little one unattended, even if they’re not on the move, as they might decide that that’s the time to start crawling!
But as far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing wrong with little ones getting dirty or wet! They’re easily washable! If in doubt, wrap them up in a splash suit!
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