10 Ways to Garden with a Toddler

You’ve been waiting all winter long to whip out your green thumb, to visit the nursery and pick out your favorite flowers and seeds, to feel the cool soil between your fingers, and to let the sun warm your back. It’s finally time, and you’re just about to drop the exact number of microscopic seeds into a perfectly measured hole when you’re startled by a happy yell and an ice cold stream of water pummeling your back, knocking you over and sending the organic seeds flying through the air. In your garden zen, you forgot for a moment that you have a toddler.

Whether you have a half acre garden or a raised square foot bed, one toddler or three, you can still happily tend to your garden this year with your toddler underfoot. Here are some ways to garden alongside your little one with less stress and less mess.

1. Find toddler gardening books.

You can find a book written for children on practically anything they’re involved in, so go ahead and pick up a few gardening books for your toddler, such as From the Garden: A Counting Book About Growing Food, Up, Down, and Around, and Planting a Rainbow.

Reading these books at bedtime or even gardenside will help show your child the basics of growing and caring for a garden, as well as bring an excitement towards helping you tend to the plants.

2. Let your toddler pick out her favorite plants.

When it’s time to visit the nursery to pick out seeds, plants, and flowers, take your toddler along. Walk her through the aisles and let her look at all the colors and varieties of plants. Let her choose a few items that she especially likes. As well as feeling important and that her opinion matters by you involving her in the selection process, she’s also less likely to be destructive in the garden if she sees the special flowers that she chose.

Here are a few plants you might want to pick up that especially appeal to your toddler’s 5 senses:

3. Provide your toddler with real tools (kid size of course)!

Everyone is familiar with the cheap, plastic shovels and rakes that barely last a season. If you want your toddlers to become involved in gardening with you, or at least just provide a long enough hole-digging distraction while you till the soil, provide them with some high quality, kid sized gardening tools that won’t only break after a day, but will last for years.

A few good options include Toysmith’s 3-Piece Garden Tool Set, House of Marbles Children’s Garden Tool Set, and Frozen Kids 4-Piece Gardening Set.

4. Let your toddler water the garden.

What toddler doesn’t love playing in water outside on a warm spring day? Involve him in the garden by giving him the most important and the most fun job. Let him man the hose or give him a special pint sized watering can that he can pour out and refill to his heart’s content. Once the watering job is done, let him play alongside you with the hose, a bucket of water, or his watering can as you finish your gardening chores.

5. Teach your toddler how to dig and plant.

Get your toddler deep in some dirt by showing her how to dig small holes or how to stick her finger in the soil to prepare the ground for planting seeds or small plants. Give her a few seeds to drop in or let her place the strawberry plant in the hole. By teaching and trusting her to do these simple gardening tasks, you’re instilling a sense of pride, productivity, and a nurturing spirit into your toddler.

6. Plant your toddler a wow factor.

Toddlers aren’t impressed with herbs that all look the same, or rose bushes covered in thorns that make them cry every time they get too close. Give them something big and beautiful to enjoy that will make going out to the garden with you fun and exciting.

Plant some sunflowers for a serious wow factor. Not only are they relatively easy to grow, but seeing a flower larger than they are “chase the sun” makes for one childhood memory they won’t ever forget.

7. Make plant markers together.

Take the garden fun inside on a rainy spring day. Break out the arts and crafts supplies and create some plant markers out of popsicle sticks with your toddler. When the weather clears, go outside together and let your toddler push the markers into the soil.

8. Teach your toddler to pull weeds and harvest.

Put your toddler to work by making the menial job of pulling weeds sound extra special and exciting. You know toddlers love to pull up anything that grows out of the ground, so be sure to closely watch them so your baby basil doesn’t become your toddler’s next victim.

Help your toddler pick flowers, pull up carrots, and snap off green beans. This is a great way to allow her to participate in gardening without causing too much mess, and a great learning experience, by showing her how fruits and vegetables grow. Wash off a few of her hard earned “prizes” and pat yourself on the back as you finally discover a way to make your toddler eat her vegetables.

9. Keep a few outdoor toys next to the garden.

If space allows, keep a few outdoor toys next to your garden area; anything that your toddler likes, that holds his attention for a while, and is durable enough to withstand sun and rain. While you’re gardening, allow your toddler to play nearby, giving you some one-on-one time with your crop and giving your toddler some fresh air and playtime.

10. Make a spot in the garden just for your toddler.

Give your toddler some valuable real estate in the family garden. Carve out an area just for her, where she can dig, make mud pies, and grow hybrid plants from squashed strawberries and half buried cucumbers. Help encourage her creativity and inspire her love for nature, while also keeping her safely away from the plants that supply your nightly salad.

Product Recommendation

We love KidKraft’s garden table from One Step Ahead for giving your toddler his own special garden space. Completely separate from the “real” garden, with no risk of your toddler straying from his invisibly tied off area, this table comes with the versatility that both parents and kids love.

Raised off the ground with built-in seating for even more convenience, this kid sized picnic table has a removable lid that allows you to fill the inside of the table with soil, perfect for pint-sized digging and planting. Replace the lid when gardening time is over, and you’re all set to have a replenishing snack with your little one, right then and there.

It’s also nice that your toddler’s “garden” is protected from the elements and will be good as new the next time it’s time to play. Made from real wood and a weather-resistant finish, KidKraft’s garden table will outgrow your toddler, giving you plenty of years of good use and good gardening.

Place the sturdy garden table next to your garden so you can keep an eye on your toddler as he happily digs in the dirt, or keep it on the patio next to your raised beds.

If one year your family gets the gardening blues, no worries. Turn the garden table into a sand table or simply use it as an old fashioned picnic table, for lunches outside or crayon creations.

Here’s to a bountiful and beautiful crop, and to growing it all with a toddler in tow.
Good luck green thumbers!

Photo Credits: Dani, Sunflowers By Apollontempel (CCO)
Sources: Gardening Know How

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Dani lives in North Carolina with her two preschoolers. She is a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom who loves to clean and organize anything and everything. Her happiness is found in Jesus, days at the spa, and combating dark chocolate peanut butter cups with everyday workouts at the gym. She owns a wedding, lifestyle, and freelance photography business, Dani Nicole Photography.

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