Last year was my 1st year gardening and I was very excited to share the experience with my then 2 year-old son. My original thought was cute little gardening tools, wide-brimmed hats and diggin’. What small child doesn’t want to dig?
It was sometime mid-April that we were finally in the backyard near the real dirt… The seedlings I’d started in March had quickly gone from cute trays of little sprouts I had proudly instagrammed to dead and brown in a matter of weeks. One false move, I think I over-watered? Either way, my brown thumb had learned a wise lesson. I had my husband set-up a drip system for our little corner gardens and I enlisted the help of my Mom. I remembered years of strawberry patches, green beans, and peas. Things my sister and I would pick with relish. We loved blackberries and staining ourselves purple. I wanted that for Isaac.
As usual though, my romanticized portrait of planting with a 2 year-old was just that. He frequently ran off to bury himself in the sandbox, returning mostly to destroy the squash hills we had built. We had fun and we learned a lot, but here are 5 things:
1. Start SMALL. It’s hard to tame a jungle. Considering my partners in crime and the tiny family I was feeding I could have used to be a little less ambitious. We planted so much a lot of plants over-grew their space, meaning food was wasted. I couldn’t always tell what was ready and it was VERY difficult for Isaac to help with picking the food.
2. Get the RIGHT tools. I had my gardening tools, but I didn’t think to get specific ones for my little. I think he got bored when he didn’t always have the tool he wanted, that combined with a short attention span meant he mostly popped in on us versus being a constant companion. This also applies to considering your layout ahead of time, and taking into account which plants grow taller, etc. We did that as we went which meant more downtime and more difficulty keeping our little engaged.
3. Let them DO IT. Toddlers and pre-school kids love being able to do things themselves. Last year since I was learning I did a lot of the things Isaac could have done without realizing. We made the mounds for the squash, he dismantled them. We could have had him build some of the hills AND the squash seeds are larger making them excellent for little planters. This year I want to make sure to think more about which things he can help with most effectively. I got better about it when there were actual veggies, I would let him do as much picking and washing as possible. The Jungle made this more difficult than necessary though.
4. Make sure to have FUN. When we were planting we got DIRTY. We watered and played in mud and spent a lot of time looking for bugs and touching the seeds. As they grew we would look at them, he would tell me about them, and a lot of times I would let him give them more water… At 2 I think the water was his favorite part. We sprayed each other with the hose and got soaked. When we picked stuff we made games talking about shapes and colors.
5. Just TRY it. Even if you don’t know anything about gardening you can do what we did last year and muck it up! There are tons of resources in our area including pinterest, nurseries and River School Farm, you learn as you go and no matter what you end up with you’re bound to learn something. All you need is dirt, seeds, water, and good intentions.
All-in-all it was a wonderful experience. I like that we just kind of jumped in and I’m even more excited for this year since we can make some changes and hopefully get a lot more FOOD out of it this time. You have to start somewhere 🙂