Gardening With A Toddler

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It’s been interesting to transition from gardening on my own to gardening with my toddler. For some reason, things seem to take just a bit longer to get done! There are potty breaks, snack breaks, pauses to find the wandering toddler and resulting time outs… you name it. A fact of parenting is that chores and tasks just take longer. Sometimes twice as long, often even more.  I’ll share some tips for gardening with a toddler a little further on.

Gardening with a Toddler
Being outdoors and gardening with my son has been wonderful. This past winter we even grew romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps — he had a blast! Now that it’s warmer, we’ve transitioned to outdoor gardening, and both of us have really enjoyed it. My son is old enough at this point to know which plants we want to keep (i.e. don’t step on!!), and which are weeds. He loves to water the plants, either with his little watering can or with the garden hose. Equally attractive are the kid-sized gardening tools so he can work “just like mama.” Although, I have to admit, he gets to use tools I don’t have — like an awesome ride-on digger toy we inherited from our neighbors.

Keeping Weeds Under Control

My son and I have been tackling the many garden beds in our yard, trying to tame the weeds and take care of the plants we actually want to keep. On our property we have four raised planters (4’x8′) for vegetables, and decorative beds that wrap around three sides of our house and alongside our (long) driveway.

Keeping the weeds under control has been interesting… especially due to the proliferation of horsetail plants throughout much of our garden space. It looks a lot like a mini evergreen, and has these nasty runners that are 1-2 feet below the surface — any attempts to dig them up and the roots break into pieces, making more plants. Here’s what it looks like in my garden bed, followed by a photo of the ones I dug up (see those nasty rhizome runners?).


Here’s a post from the University of Maryland Medical Center about the medicinal uses of Horsetail — I had no idea it could be used to stop bleeding, or to help kidney stones and UTIs.  From my research on how to get rid of horsetail, I also learned that the pioneers used it to scour pots and pans.  If you’re not so fortunate as to have your own Horsetail harvest on your property, you can buy “loose leaf” Horsetail tea, or Horsetail extract (or organic Horsetail Extract) on Amazon or smaller online suppliers like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Gardening With a Toddler

As promised, here are my tips for gardening with a toddler!  This list is not all-inclusive, so feel free to share more ideas in the comments section :).

Have realistic expectations — you will NOT get everything done that you want to accomplish.  Accept it, and move on.  This will go a *long* way towards saving your sanity.

Identify “good” plants from “bad” weeds — this will be something you have to do time and time again, but it’s worth it.  Teaching kids to nourish the good plants so they can grow, or even just to keep from stepping on them, is a *really* important thing to do if you’re going to garden with a toddler.

Designate an area for “digging” — no matter how helpful my son is, after a while, his focus drifts to the joy of digging.  I make sure to tell him about an area of the garden where it is good for him to dig.  Usually, it’s a spot free from “good” plants, and even weeds, so whatever he does, it really doesn’t make a difference to me.

Give immediate consequences / time outs — I learned to regret the threat of “we’ll go inside” as a consequence for poor behavior.  It really didn’t accomplish much in the big scheme of things, especially when I wanted to keep working outdoors myself.  A far better consequence has been to take away garden tools for two minutes, or to have my son sit on the front step for a bit while I keep “playing” in the dirt.  That being said, if I know he’s tired, or a garden tool is thrown, I still will consider “being done outdoors” as a consequence.

Let play happen — when my son wants to go play in the yard for a while, I let him.  Little minds can only enjoy gardening for so long, and I want the experience to be joyful for him, rather than a chore.  So, we will bring out toys for him to play with nearby as I continue working.

Water those plants! — kids love to play with water.  I love to hand my son his watering can so he can give “drinks to the thirsty plants.”  If you do offer the garden hose to your toddler, be forewarned …you may get sprayed.  And your plants may get drowned, as hoses are harder to monitor than watering cans.

Have toddler-sized tools — it goes without saying, kids always want to use what mom or dad is using. We’ve made gardening a lot more pleasant by bringing out a selection of pint-sized tools for my son to use. And don’t forget the gardening gloves! Here is my son’s gardening bucket (see below). A nice assortment of tools, watering can, and gloves.

Kid sized tools
What are your best tips for gardening with a toddler?

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A lifelong bookworm and creative soul, Betsy lives in Michigan with her husband, (soon-to-be-two) boys, and two cats (Betsy's story).  You can read more of her thoughts on life and creative musings at  There, Betsy blogs about a hodgepodge of topics including fine art and portrait photography, parenting, capturing memories, and finding contentment in the journey of life.  You can also find Betsy on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, and Instagram.

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  1. Great tips!

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