Cultivating a love of gardening with your toddler
Even before the age of two, a toddler can be inspired by… interact with… and make discoveries in the garden. With a little planning, the two of you can have a fun and productive experience working together.
Prepare for activity
The best time to garden with a toddler is early in the morning or after an afternoon nap. It is cooler at these times, the sun is not as bright, and a well-rested toddler tends to be in a much better mood. Make sure your child is ready to “work” in the garden. Toddlers will need sunscreen, even when the sun is not at its brightest and when it is cool. Dress them in play clothes and wash their hands after digging in the dirt. A little dirt never hurt anyone.
Gather the basics
Gather all of your supplies before you start: tools, containers, soil, water, seeds and/or plants. Young children work well with container gardens. An old sandbox or shallow container work great. Seedlings can be started in them as long as they are 2 to 3 inches deep and have drainage holes. Choose plants with large seeds that germinate rapidly. Nasturtiums and miniature sunflowers are good choices. Cherry tomatoes are a tasty treat. Marigolds are particularly hearty. Use non-toxic plants and fertilizers.
Children love to mimic what they see grown-ups doing. Hand garden tools are usually small. Make sure the tools are safe to handle and show them how to use the tools properly. Demonstrate how to sow seeds or plant starts and then let her do it. Be there to help when needed, but otherwise try not to intervene. Toddlers can water with a small watering can or spray bottle. Visit your garden together often. Take time to stop and look at the plants. Make it a learning experience; watch a worm wiggle, count flowers or tomatoes. If you grow edible items, enjoy the fresh tastes with your child.
Relax and enjoy this time together. Your enthusiasm will motivate her. If a blossom gets picked here or there or garden is not perfect, don’t worry.
Developing a love of gardening does not happen over one summer. When your child takes part each year, the better your gardening experiences will become. As a young child, I visited my grandmother’s gardens and worked side-by-side with my own mother in her flower beds. Gardening and growing flowers is a tradition that I have been able to share with my own children. I hope that you will have a similar experience with yours.
Jocelyn Debick, Director accessAbilities First Step Early Intervention
- BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA
- Infant Mental Health Graduate Certificate, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA
Experience includes 25 years in Early Intervention, Early Childhood Education; advocate high quality early care and education services
accessAbilities First Steps Early Intervention provides a variety of home-based services for children ages birth to age 3. These services are designed to foster learning and growth during the most important developmental stages as well as provide support for the family as a whole.
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