Back when my husband and I were searching for a home, before our son was born, we knew we wanted some land to garden on. We were fortunate enough to find a house that had raised beds and a coop! Once our son was born we had to start getting creative on ways to get him outside with us. We wanted a way for our little guy and his future siblings to enjoy the outdoors with Mom and Dad.
We tried many things to see what would work, from putting J. into a pack’n’play in the shade (from which he cried profusely) to wearing him in a carrier making bending or lifting objects impossible for me (I’m a tiny gal). Nothing really was working until we put him in the grass. I’m not sure if he was afraid of the spiky green stuff but he did not try to follow us, at first. Then he started to cry once more when I would walk away and his little legs couldn’t keep up; it was a long process. He wanted to be right next to me, digging in the raised beds and attacking all the new seedlings. It was all I could do to keep little fingers away from our precious plants and I would cringe with each new plant he grasped and crushed with glee.
What could I do? I mean, I wanted my child to enjoy the outdoors and gardening. I wanted to be able to share this passion my husband and I have for growing food. I wanted J. to find pleasure in the smells of moist dirt and plants put together or the feel of the sun and wind on one’s face after spending a longer than expected time weeding, with sweat running down your neck.
So we got to thinking and this is what we’ve found to keep our little one,under three years, entertained outdoors:
- A Day at the “Beach”: Build a sandbox near the raised beds or garden area! J. has loved this and digs with us in the sand which appeases everyone. Whew! My plants are saved!
- Feed Those Chickens: J. loves to get a handful of feed and toss it to the chickens, for which they are eternally grateful. Plus he gets the benefit of learning to take care of others besides himself.
- Chase Chickens: Yes, chickens are wonderful animals, they feed you, eat bugs in your garden, provide companionship and can even put on a side show certain to entertain for a good 30 minutes or more when a two year old starts to chase them around the yard.
- Sticks are the Spice of Life: Bang a stick on the ground (or any variation). We’ve found our little guy really likes to hit things, but if you find a little one who prefers a different activity sticks are a great tool for digging in dirt, or poking tree trunks. Possibilities are endless!
- A Rocky Start: We have pebbles in and around our raised beds (call it a path if you wish) from a time when we thought it would be nice to have them. Well, they have come in handy! J. loves to pick them up and throw them in the beds, or path, and even down a myriad of holes nearby. Endless entertainment!
- Friends for Fun: Bring on some friends and a ball even! I’ve really been waiting for spring time to come so we can have friends over to chase a ball around. J. is finally stable enough to run in the yard without falling, so I hope this activity will be a favorite.
- Water, water everywhere: If you have no problem with a little water coming in your direction every now and again, this is a great way to entertain the curious toddler/preschooler. J. has thoroughly enjoyed wetting his hands when I water plants and even running into the water on hot days. It’s just some good, cool fun!
- Eat and be Merry: We found, this past growing season, that having edibles nearby for little hands is a great activity! Whether it is blueberry bushes, raspberry/blackberry vines, grape tomatoes or apples even, all of these plants and more can be enjoyed in the moment. Having J. out there helping with the harvest by filling his belly with nature’s sweets is by far a favorite of his and mine! He learns what ripe looks and tastes like, plus he enjoys the fruits of our labor in the process. A tangible learning moment that we just can’t pass up!