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Toddler Time in the Garden

by Tania Cowling | June 2nd, 2014 | Development, Infants/Toddlers

little-boy-108417_640It’s never too early to instill the love of growing plants into a child’s life. Gardens are magical places and should be simple and successful when done with young children. Why not take your child outdoors during this beautiful spring weather and play in the dirt? Who knows, the next step may be harvesting veggies for your salad or beautiful flowers to decorate the home — all with your toddler’s help!

Find a small sunny spot in your yard to begin your garden. With a large spoon, show your toddler how to spade up the patch. There are also cute gardening tools made just for kids that can be purchased. Show him/her how to break up the soil lumps. This may take a few days to complete to get the patch ready for planting. Then bring out the packages of seed. Show your toddler how to make rows (similar to making roads in the sandbox). Plant the seeds with your toddler’s help until all of them are in the dirt.

It’s time to gently water the rows of seed beds and a child’s sprinkling can is perfect for little hands. Together watch for sprouts. Beans, corn, and cucumbers are usually successful seeds to plant. You might want to set up a small step ladder or three dowels tied together into a triangle for the bean vines to grow into a living teepee. Lettuce and spinach seeds are also good summer crops. Toddlers will take great delight in eating vegetables they grew themselves!

If there is no space available for an outdoor garden, plan to plant some mini-gardens in containers on a porch or patio. Use buckets, baskets, barrels, planters, and boxes. Be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Together, water your plants often.

Indoors you can also grow interesting plants. Did you know you can make a lovely green plant from a sweet potato? Stick four toothpicks around the middle of the vegetable and suspend it in a jar with enough water to cover the bottom part of the potato. Check on the sweet potato often to see the roots forming and green foliage beginning to sprout.

Why not take a break from working the soil and sit down together for a story about gardening? Try one of these books as toddlers absorb loads of information from stories and pictures.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss is the classic, short story about a young boy who plants a carrot seed and is told that it won’t grow. The boy pulls weeds, waters the plant, and ultimately grows a HUGE carrot.

In Grandma’s Garden by Elaine Moore, Kim visits her grandma in the spring to help her prepare her garden. From breaking ground to tying string in straight rows, from looking at seed packs, to sprinkling seeds and making a scarecrow — children will see all the steps in making a garden.

As you read Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert, children are introduced to planting bulbs and seeds and watching a rainbow grow. Red, orange, and yellow flowers, green plants, blue and purple flowers bloom. What a beautiful sight!

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