(With a Preschooler)
Who doesn’t love to be outside when the weather finally gets warm? My group of littles and I spend most of the days outside during these days. But outside is full of natural therapy, and one of the best therapies I have is gardening. My daughter, who is almost 4, always wants to join in. However, sometimes she can be a little bit vicious with the plants, and so I had to come up with ways to distract her. Otherwise my garden was going to be pretty sparse. So, I used these seven tips to garden with my daughter, without total destruction of all plants.
Learn the Names of the Flowers
I am not trying to be funny, but this is just as much of an activity for me as it is for my daughter. I can never remember the names of the flowers, so when she asks me I usually have to look them up. The best part about all that? I am the one who planted them in the garden. Anyway, I found one way to keep Zoë engaged in the garden and not tearing it up was to name the flowers, and find some fun facts about them. It is handy to get a plant identification book, like the one found in this link here.
I find this is beneficial in so many ways, she is genuinely curious about the flowers, but the best benefit? Selfishly it’s me who benefits because it makes my heart so so happy. There is nothing as cute, or heart-warming than when she leans in to smell the flowers. It melts me, every time.
Get a Toy Gardening Set
When I am digging, Zoë wants to dig too. One year someone gave me a toy gardening set. I can’t tell you how much that thing has saved my sanity. I have reserved a space in my garden that is her area to dig up and do as she pleases. But, if I have to put a plant in the ground, I let her dig the hole for me. She feels included and that she has some control with her own space in the garden. Usually this keeps things peaceful, and cooperative.
I have also made a bit of a game out of digging in the dirt. Last year, Zoë discovered worms, and decided that they were her friends. She would collect them in a cup and take them around the yard showing them all her toys and play structure. So, I ask her how many worms does she think she can find. Personally, I think worms are gross and it takes ever fibre in my body to not pull a disgusted face when she brings them to show me.
The Garden Needs Water
Zoë loves to water the plants. She needed a little guidance at first because her aim was a little off. And of course, I get sprayed at least once. Apparently that is funny. So, if you do let your preschooler water then consider yourself warned. Sometimes I have to go back and water a few plants that didn’t really get watering. It’s worth it because watching her face light up watering the plants is the best!
Plant the Seeds
Planting the seeds isn’t the most exciting activity, but I like it because of the monotony and I can just focus on putting seeds in the ground. Of course, Zoë wants to be involved in this process. It is the most exciting part about gardening. Especially for a little kid.
One of my fondest memories is planting seeds with my mom when I was younger. I loved thinking about what the plant was going to look like when it grew. Also, I come from a long line of gardeners, people who loved to dig their hands in the dirt. My mom, who is forever making rock gardens, my dad who grows the best vegetables (he has some pretty flower gardens too), my gramma who had the prettiest roses. Being in the garden as a child hold some of my fondest memories, and I want that experience for Zoë too.
Choose the Plants for Gardening
For Mother’s Day every year my husband packs us up and takes us to a garden centre or nursery so that I can choose plants for my gardens. This year Zoë was old enough to help me choose plants. The biggest challenge we had was veering her away from all the grass plants (I am not really a big fan). Followed directly by buying too many plants, but in my books, is that even possible?
Pull Up All The Weeds
For us this is a very slow process because I have to point out every weed. Sometimes she will point to a plant and ask if it is a flower or a weed. If it is a weed she will ask if she can pull it. And also, sometimes just the foliage comes off. The important thing is that she feels included and is having just mommy-daughter time.
Make the Garden Beds
Since I am banned from making any more flower beds, this pertains more to the vegetable garden. After the soil has been turned we need to make beds. So, Zoë will watch what I do as I heap dirt together to make a bed, and attempts to do the same. Often times, she ends up digging around in the dirt for worms to make friends with and then skips off with a cup full of them. And then she will come back to get more worms. I have never met a kid so fascinated with worms in my life.
She will help me lay straw in between the rows. That is until her imagination takes hold and she pretends that the straw is her fire and she collects a bunch to make her camp fire with. Gardening with a toddler isn’t productive work, it’s fun work.
In The End
At the end of the day, you may not get to spend the hours you thought you could gardening. But, there are memories being made here. Being in the garden with Zoë reminds me of the happy memories in my childhood. This is time that we spend bonding and making memories together.