Written by Jenn, Contributing Writer
**note from Rachel: Please meet Jenn of A Simple Haven, a new monthly contributor here! Jenn is a mother, wife, baby wearer and has a desire to steward well the gifts God has given to her.
Last year I gave myself permission not to plant my first garden due to a recent cross-country move, the birth of our second baby, and my husband starting grad school. However, the dust in my life has since settled and this spring I’m joining the ranks of the homesteaders of yesteryear. (Read: I’m dropping some plants in a mix of dirt-ish stuff that Mel Bartholomew says is awesome and hoping for the best).
So far I’ve mostly overcome my fear of killing everything and have successfully deterred rabbit raids. And while the crops I planted last week are growing at a painstakingly slow rate, I’m starting to enjoy the daily nurturing of our tomatoes, lettuce, kale, and assortment of herbs.
One unexpected hurdle, however, was the question of how to include my 1 ½ and 3 year-old children in my new horticultural endeavors.
While perhaps a non-issue for some moms, my backyard situation poses particular challenges to simultaneously maintaining crops and the safety of wee ones:
- Our yard is fenced.
- There’s constantly construction traffic/tools/activity in the lot behind our house.
- A giant drain sits in the corner of our yard, beckoning curious limbs.
- I have a fast and fearless 16 month-old who has obeyed me maybe twice in his life.
- I have a daughter with an overzealous and indiscriminate passion for weeding. (She proudly “weeded” my day-lilies yesterday).
With these factors and the desire to include my babes in the joy of cultivating life in place, I’ve developed some simple methods of addressing both.
Simple Ways to Garden with the Kids
(Without losing them or the kale)
1. Set Expectations
As we go out, I’ll remind my 3 year-old of our backyard rule (stay in the backyard) and our garden rule (no walking on the plants). Simple, but I hear it’s helpful to keep it that way with littles. 🙂
2. Encouraging Participation
I’ll let big girl help water with her special watering can and pull weeds (with clear instruction). She loves to join in and even though it’s less efficient, I will happily trade efficiency for memories.
3. Immobilize the Baby
Strap that kid to something. I’ll either wear him in a sling or my Beco carrier or plop him in the stroller or baby swing. He’s an awfully good sport about the stroller, bless his heart.
This isn’t a crystallized educational perspective, just what’s working for us right now. So, count those seeds, measure space between plants, and point out the squares in your square foot garden. It would be easier to just wait until nap-time to do the gardening (and, when initially planting, I did), but as much as possible, I want to include the wee ones in the homemaking—for their education and memories as much as mine.