Win a copy of Keeping Bees with a Smile this week in the Honey Bees forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Mike Haasl
  • Anne Miller
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Pearl Sutton
  • paul wheaton
  • r ranson
stewards:
  • James Freyr
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Jocelyn Campbell
master gardeners:
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Ash Jackson
  • thomas rubino
  • Jay Angler

Gardening while watching a small child

 
pollinator
Posts: 605
Location: Montana
205
forest garden trees
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My son is now three years old. Professionally my wife and I have both worked as essentially gardeners in some of our past employ.

I do garden with the little guy and such things as berry picking both in the yard and out and about. He really enjoyed double digging a bed with me last fall.

However, we do struggle to get things done with him around. As he gets older we expect eventually this will all get easier.

Do you garden with small children? How's it working out?

 
steward
Posts: 5104
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1818
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It worked fine for me. My general experience with kids, is that if they are allowed to be underfoot while young, that they grow up to be wonderful helpers.

 
Posts: 65
Location: Saskatchewan
18
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My one year old spent quite a bit of time in the garden with me last summer. I had a couple spots that were left open and let her play free there, I think she ended up eating her body weight in dirt a couple times though. It worked good for short bits at a time i could get roughly 30 to 45 minutes before she had to move on to something more exciting. I also let her nibble on a lot of plants and found out green onions were a hit but spinach was not.
 
pollinator
Posts: 281
Location: Zone 8b Portland
36
forest garden fungi food preservation
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My three year old loved climbing trees to pick fruit. They’re daring at that age apparently. My only advice would be not to get too caught up with tying your happiness to how much you accomplish in a given day haha. Sometimes I was doing well and getting things done. Other times I’m playing games. It could go either way fast at that age
 
pioneer
Posts: 241
Location: Missoula
97
hugelkultur forest garden books earthworks wofati composting toilet food preservation building medical herbs rocket stoves homestead
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My youngest son was 2.5 when he planted his first growies.  Actually he planted pebbles.  Later I put seeds where the pebbles were.  Every day he looked where he planted.  When sprouts came up he was so thrilled.  He told anyone who would listen about his plants coming out of the ground "like babies" :.)

Remembering this made me wonder if there is an area of the garden that your son could tend.  Even if at first he's only interested in making holes or dirt piles, planting sticks and rocks and such.  As Joseph Lofthouse said, when they're underfoot...

Little ones learn so much so fast.  Ha.  When I was in basic training, after half a day at an obstacle course, our training instructor said any 5 year old could do what we had that day with more enthusiasm.  He was probably right!
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 605
Location: Montana
205
forest garden trees
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I haven't scared him away from gardening yet. He loved digging the big hole with me for the double dug bed. He sure was underfoot though. It worked though. He would take my tools, and my spot, and I would just move to another spot and keep working.

He was telling me all about adding sand to the garden yesterday and it's been months on account of winter.

Gene Logsdon said in one of his books to just work in the fields and talk to the children and gradually they would just naturally start helping. I like that idea.

Sometimes when something is important to us, we inadvertently push our children away. I hope not to do that in this instance.

I always got to have a area to play in the garden when I was little. Also a garden space and often got to pick a crop. We grew peanuts one year and sugar beets another.

Sometimes though I do go out and rototill and such all by myself.

I wonder how it will go with him this year. Sometimes last year he really just wanted to explore the garage rather than walk around outside. Gross motor skill activities are his weak link. I figure on getting more sand delivered and he should enjoy the piles. Sand pit in the back yard is a hit, so I think I can spare some sand for him to have that out on the garden land as well.
 
master steward
Posts: 12540
Location: Pacific Northwest
5564
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For me, it's really helped to have their play area by my garden. If I was working far away from their toys, two things happened: (1) They followed me to where I was and didn't play with any of their cool toys, and, (2) They quickly complained about being cold or hot or hungry.

But, if I gardened by their swingset, they'd play while I gardened and had a blast. And when I built a trellis and garden bed by their play pit, suddenly they played with it. But, they only ever really play with it while I'm working nearby.



And, when they claimed a tree for their "Tree Fort House", I found I could get a lot of pruning there, and started planting raspberries nearby. I try to always have my pruning shears on me, so if they call me somewhere while they're playing, I could prune shrubs or cut back blackberries, or pull weeds while they played.

As for toys/play areas, it doesn't have to be much--even just some logs stood on end will be really fun.


https://permies.com/t/84942/Permaculture-Playground-Diner

I find wagons really helpful, too. I can put a bunch of food and water and snacks and toys and tools in it, and wheel it where I'm at, and then the kids can play nearby. They might help a little with the garden, but they also have something to keep them busy while I work, so I can get stuff done without having to go in and out of the house 15 times when I'm trying to plant strawberries.

I also find it really helpful to not go back into the house. If I go in, they follow me in, and then they don't want to come back out...or they take off their shoes and coats and then I have to regarb them... and then I get nothing done! So, I try to get them set up with snacks and water and a little table to sit at in the shade (or sun if it's cool), and I would bring out their little potty when they were small so we didn't have to go back inside to go pee.

But, even with all these tricks and lots of toys and stuff to do, I still don't get nearly as much done if I were by myself!
 
Posts: 41
Location: Ontario zone 4b/5a
13
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I do garden with small children and I'm not sure how it's worked out! I also have a garden in view of the play area (and climbing tree) so that works well.
This summer I will have a 18month old and a 5year old. The 5 year old is already excited about the garden.

My first summer on our property I would take a stroller walk to put him down for a nap and then park it in the shade while I worked outside.

I really want to kick the gardening up a notch this year but it really is tough to do when you're also looking after littles.
 
Posts: 11
4
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If your garden is fenced in (and your child is not capable of opening the gates) I would have no problems letting my 3-year-old just running around and do whatever, no matter if he is in view or not. Sure he'll break stuff, but that is par for the course, in my view.

That said, a decent play area really helps with keeping children occupied in a garden. Our kids particularly enjoy slides, (easy) climbing opportunities and sandpits (ideally with running water. Nothing is more fun to a kid than making a mess with water and sand).

When it comes to gardening itself, offering kids their "own" area, where they can decide what happens helps with getting them interested. You'll still have to do all the work at that age, mind you, but you should do it in a way that they think they themselves did it. Over time (if you are lucky) they will actually grow into doing it themselves.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 12540
Location: Pacific Northwest
5564
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Nicky McGrath wrote:I do garden with small children and I'm not sure how it's worked out! I also have a garden in view of the play area (and climbing tree) so that works well.
This summer I will have a 18month old and a 5year old. The 5 year old is already excited about the garden.

My first summer on our property I would take a stroller walk to put him down for a nap and then park it in the shade while I worked outside.

I really want to kick the gardening up a notch this year but it really is tough to do when you're also looking after littles.



I actually found it was easier to garden once my daughter could walk. She and my son actually played together and kept each other entertained! I figured everyone was lying when they said that the kids would play together and it would make things easier, but it actually did happen! (No guarantee, every family is different!) And, because my son had his sister to play with, he actually had more fun playing with the toys and equiptment that he'd had for years. He wasn't interested in the climbing dome or the slide or the swing until SHE was interested in them. And, he'd help her play, too. He'd push her on a bike, or pull her in the wagon.

Speaking of the wagon, my daughter loved to sit in it. So, I tied a belt to the handle  and hitched myself to it! We had a reel mower, so I could mow while pulling her around, or do a bit of needle-felting.



When she was that age, I also had one of those big disk swings. Both kids would climb on, and I'd give them a big push...and then run off and plant some seeds. Then run back and push them again and run back to the garden to plant some more. It worked!

I also got a shallow tray of water for them to scoop and dump water in the shade. A few times, I added a bit of bubble liquid and soap to it, and it made so many bubbles. They LOVED that.

I also would pick them a bunch of berries and give them water or coconut water to drink at their little table in the shade. This kept them happy and fed and cool so I could work!
DSCF0055.JPG
Coconut water tea party on a hot day
Coconut water tea party on a hot day
106_7882.JPG
Here my son is, age 4, pushing my 18 month old daughter in the car.
Here my son is, age 4, pushing my 18 month old daughter in the car.
 
pollinator
Posts: 219
Location: Southern Germany
93
kids books urban chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts bee
  • Likes 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When you compare gardening with toddlers to gardening pre-kids, there was a frustrating difference in the amount I got done.

But there's no use complaining, I just tried to have the kids around as much as possible.
Possibilities to play with toys, soil, sand or water are important, or little tools or wagons they could push around.

With regards to actual helping, my kids were not the most enthusiastic. Harvesting peas or berries worked well for some minutes and then they lost interest. Anyway, they got to learn something.

When I compared my kids to neighbour kids, I always realized that my kids tried to do as little damage as possible whereas the other kids trampled on the "tiny little flowers" in our garden without even noticing.

And I vividly remember my eldest daughter when she was a bit over two years old and helped me to transplant the tomato plants into their outdoor pots. I was nervous and did sweat, but we had no losses and will always remember that day because in the evening daughter number 2 was born - we got the important job done before I went to hospital and that was well worth it!

Another tip: Remember to make pictures! I love the photos of my children amongst flowers and veggies, or up in a tree. This will also have a lasting impact on them how they remember their childhood when they look back.
 
Nicky McGrath
Posts: 41
Location: Ontario zone 4b/5a
13
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole, your setups look awesome!
We were able to buy an old wooden play structure inexpensively and set it up last summer. This summer I plan to add some tree stumps and climbing ropes and my eldest and I may work on a little fairy garden under the tree. I'd also really like to try a pole bean teepee somewhere.

I agree that the kids will generally help keep each other entertained. At this stage I just have to be careful not to let my attention drift too much because the older one can be a bit of a trouble maker and I would not currently trust him to keep the toddler out of harms way!

I'm still expanding our gardens so I don't have a child specific area yet, but I will in the future.


Wow, all this talk has made me wish for summer! But looking out my window at all the snow tells me there's a little ways to go yet :)
 
pollinator
Posts: 514
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
116
  • Likes 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My due date for child Three is in about two weeks, and as I had to give up gardening while pregnant, this is my kind of topic.  I look forward to some digging and planting soon in the future!

Wihen our oldest was very small, I either parked him asleep in his stroller or carried him in the sling to garden.  When he started walking, he just came with me and "helped."  I really thinking having the kids with you and helping is important, as they learn more than just gardening--they learn self control, respect, and how to work--among other things.  Yes, you could do it faster without them.  But I think having them do it themselves, or help at least, is setting up a good foundation for the future.  Our oldest son is now a (mostly) good worker and I can trust him to do all sorts of jobs around the house and garden;  he's almost ten now.  He sometimes wishes he could be like his friends and not have chores!  But it's setting him up to be an adult, and he'll know how to do all sorts of things his friends won't.

Also, I see it as training him to be a good husband/partner/etc.  I think this is especially important for boys, as I know it's hard on a woman (and on a marriage) to have to take care of not just the kids but the husband too;  I think this expectation isn't as strong as perhaps it was in the past, and my husband isn't completely useless like some men I know, but I would certainly find it much easier if he took on an equal share of the house and garden work.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 143
Location: Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
21
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I put my kids off gardening by being too focused on getting things done.

Water and dirt keep them occupied. Let them make a mess
 
Posts: 56
7
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had some trouble last year, my son was two. It was frustrating sometimes. We put in a new bed with onions. He loved running through it! He'd yank out those onions, "Mama! Ball!" It was too funny and cute, and a good excuse to try the onions. I learned how to prevent it with enough of a border/fencing to slow him down if he wants in.

I like the ideas for keeping the kids busy and happy, involved or not. I don't have a fenced yard and there's traffic and pedestrians to watch out for, so I got a lot less done than I liked. But, I got plenty done too. I love that he'll know what real food looks like, tastes like, and how it grows. I'm looking forward to including him more this year.

I'm also going to take any chance to go out without him...
 
pollinator
Posts: 2202
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
273
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Been doing it ages and they're about as helpful at 6 and 9 as they were smaller. I had them plant the potatoes last year and they were RANDOM. Potatoes everywhere. lol Plus some pumpkins I was surprised to find randomly around.

Get small shovels. They love to dig all the things. Accept that your kid is going to be wet A LOT. My kids were always around while I did things but they weren't always engaged with me. Also, sometimes they start helping and then just end up with their shovels digging all the things. Oh, and get a nice little Vtech kids camera. Kept my littles occupied for YEARS taking pictures on my jaunts to check on things.
Feeding-Assistants-1024x683.jpg
[Thumbnail for Feeding-Assistants-1024x683.jpg]
Falling-in-mud-blues.jpg
[Thumbnail for Falling-in-mud-blues.jpg]
IMG_2959-1024x683.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_2959-1024x683.jpg]
IMG_2903-1024x683.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_2903-1024x683.jpg]
IMG_1415-1024x683.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_1415-1024x683.jpg]
IMG_2900-1024x683.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_2900-1024x683.jpg]
Straw-help.jpg
[Thumbnail for Straw-help.jpg]
Straw-hair.jpg
[Thumbnail for Straw-hair.jpg]
IMG_1356-1024x683.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_1356-1024x683.jpg]
 
pollinator
Posts: 115
Location: Western MA, zone 6b
30
dog forest garden urban
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Water table/ Mud kitchens are also a big hit with small children.   They usually can't resist squishy messy container type play!

You may not be getting a lot of "garden work" done, but you are getting a lot of educating,  example-setting,  and child rearing done.  Every minute spent in the yard/garden with you is an investment that will pay back tenfold as your little one grows.   The garden and it's work will always be there waiting for you.  :)
 
Posts: 93
Location: WV
16
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I admit, it’s a challenge.  My daughter will soon be five and I’ve found that it’s easier to work in the backyard where her slide, playhouse, sandbox and pool are than in the bigger garden beds in front of the house.  She loves playing in the dirt but quickly loses attention in doing things that aren’t “fun” to her.  When we harvested potatoes out of the bigger beds last year, I let her carry each individual potato to the basket we were gathering in.  She loves water so is great at helping me water plants when needed.  

I finally realized that I needed to quit stressing about not getting one task completely finished before moving to the next.  Instead I now work on whatever needs done in the area she’s playing in at the moment.  
 
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Probably some of you who posted  know this but as I read the posts about gardening with children and getting less done because of the children I  remembered an older woman telling me, when my children were frustrating me. "The time you spend with your children is not wasted. It is time well spent."  So keep in mind that if you get less gardening done but are teaching your children about gardening, the outdoors, being creative, etc. this is also accomplishing!! And in the long run will make a difference in both of your lives. It's like that in the house or in the yard or out and about.   Also beginning to garden in the spring I would let my children each have a little garden of their own to plant and take care of which kept them occupied with their own place. In the beginniing I gave them beans and summer squash and radishes which are all easy to grow. As they grew up they chose more complex things to do with their garden spot which got to be a larger area if they wanted it to be larger. And sometimes included perennials too.  Now as  adults they enjoy gardening  which makes all the giving up my own plans and preferences worth it.  Also one of the things I do recommend is perennials . When getting started including edible flowers which can do double time in your yard and some like day lilies are so easy to plant, grow and harvest that they really are a good place to start.
 
Nicole Alderman
master steward
Posts: 12540
Location: Pacific Northwest
5564
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sorel, chives, and strawberries are my kid's favorite perennials. Most of my son's garden is now chives, sorrel and strawberies. Both kids love munching on all of those, and it's really nice and low-maintenance!
 
Michelle Heath
Posts: 93
Location: WV
16
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I thought I would come back and add my recent experience to this post.  

A few weeks ago I started picking up chestnut burrs that had dropped last fall and put them into whatever large containers I could find.  I quickly filled every container I had and a few feedbacks too and still had more to pick up.  Rain and sickness prolonged the job and we just got back to it today.  My husband shoveled the burrs into the chipper while my daughter and I raked and picked up the rest of the burrs.  I let her play while I did the raking but asked her for help when it came time to scoop them up (I use a snow shovel for this). She gladly came running to hold the shovel while I raked the burrs onto it. I then helped her empty the shovel into the container while telling her what a good job she was doing.  She was thrilled to help and I was happy knowing she was nearby and eager to help.  I think the key to getting kids interested in helping is giving them lots of praise or at least that’s what works for me.  

 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 605
Location: Montana
205
forest garden trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Last night my son wanted to go somewhere in the truck. I told him there was no where to go and nothing to do. His mom had just said we should stop taking him to the grocery store. Unnecessary exposure of someone who sometimes licks things. We didn't really need anything. I tried to get him to walk with me but it failed. So we ended up at Ace Hardware. One of the employees had a face mask around her neck. The checker had blue plastic gloves. My little guy charged up and down the aisles for awhile. I tried to look at fertilizer and the bagged potting soils but he kept dissapearing. Finally we picked out an envelope of sunflower seeds together and I've promised to plant it with him today.
 
elle sagenev
pollinator
Posts: 2202
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
273
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been enjoying quarantine time in the greenhouse. Planted a baby and 2 elem kids yesterday! lol
90891593_10158057647658633_8892060883866353664_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 90891593_10158057647658633_8892060883866353664_n.jpg]
90703803_10158057647348633_4271211161870925824_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 90703803_10158057647348633_4271211161870925824_n.jpg]
90397725_10158057647203633_687026881383366656_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 90397725_10158057647203633_687026881383366656_n.jpg]
 
Bihai Il
Posts: 56
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I didn't expect to see a lava floor installed in a greenhouse.
 
elle sagenev
pollinator
Posts: 2202
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
273
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Bihai Il wrote:I didn't expect to see a lava floor installed in a greenhouse.



Haha! It is, it is!
 
pollinator
Posts: 120
Location: North Idaho
57
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The wife and I raised six plus a niece and a nephew.  The wife became paraplegic in auto accident in 2000 and not long after that we bought 200 acres...

This is our 2004 family photo...



Our oldest at that time was Nate who was 7 and Brandon who was six, Theodore was 3, Jarad was 2 and Johnathon and Keyonna were both 1 1/2.  The wife was in the hospital about 4 to 6 months out of each year with bone infection and rotary flap surgeries and then on bed rest for most of the rest of the year.  I was left raising all these kids basically on my own and trying to work and make money at the same time as raising them and being the sole care giver for my wife...

I was terrified of the potential of running a child over with a tractor or something so I built wooden benches on the wheel wells of my big 4 wd tractor.  I was able set three kids on each bench and I put in simple seat belts so that they couldn't get loose or fall or anything.  

With so many kids I made helping me a competition, that helped to keep interest up a bit, make it a competition and apply rewards, it wasn't about getting them to work harder so much as "getting in my way a bit less"...

I note the comment that as the child gets older they will be more helpful........  Try having 7 teenagers in your household... "helpful" is not the word I would use to describe them...  

A dog is a helpful tool in keeping track of children, my daughter Sierra was always just "poof"... vanishing, I would spend an hour looking everywhere calling her name etc and she would sit there 10 feet away in total silence...  Once I got her a puppy she couldn't hide from me anymore, hard to keep a puppy quiet and contained...

Sierra age 10 1/2 months....  I had just found her in the middle of our milk goat herd, she loved hanging out with the goats literally right in the middle of the 75- 150 to 350 pound goats.  Thankfully we never had any ornery goats and if anything I think they kind of watched out for her, but man it scared the willies out of me every time she disappeared...



Sierra is now is a healthy 14 1/2 year old teen who stands about the same height me now 5ft9 and just got her prom dress yesterday, crazy how fast they grow up...

A puppy also keeps a child's attention even when they get bored with all else..

Be forewarned, puppy adds a whole new set of new challenges into day to day life.

I have noticed that even young children will quickly adapt to a schedule and routine, the more routine your day is the easier it tends to be to get them follow along and participate with it.  Something new and exciting tends to crash their behavior for the day...

At any rate I never found an easy way to deal with young children while working, it was tough.  I did different things like fence in a play area for them to play in but they would just climb out or crawl under...   I built a large enclosed field fence wire box 16 feet x 16 feet by about 15 feet tall covered with road fabric and made a giant jungle gym of branches in it for the cats to live in protected from coyotes and predators and the kids enjoyed hanging in there to an extent.

As the kids get a little older in the 8 to 10 year old range they are pretty good an grouping up and entertaining themselves, i was able to get quite a lot done when they all in that age group.  As teens they wanted to do sports and extracurricular activities and if I though it was tough to accomplish things when they were young the driving all over the country to deliver 5 to 7 people to their respective events and interests constantly has made it far more challenging to get things done.  Not too mention that now if I ask them for help they get angry at me and and it is just far easier to everything by myself these days.  Most of them are old enough and grown up enough now that they want to come out and help with things these days, I am enjoying this phase quite a bit...

There is no way around it, kids are a challenge to getting things done, but after all the extra work, effort and sacrifice they are far more than worth it...
 
Right! We're on it! Let's get to work tiny ad!
Learn Permaculture through a little hard work
https://wheaton-labs.com/bootcamp
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic