I have many fond memories of helping my parents in their garden when I was a youngster. I want my daughter to experience those same fun memories and learn valuable life skills. However, teaching your toddler about gardening is no picnic at first. They will eat dirt when your back is turned and will probably make more of a mess than anything. Do not let this discourage you. After the initial introduction, take note of certain activities your child finds interesting and incorporate those to help develop their gross and fine motor skills.
How To Introduce Gardening
Making a garden or nature based sensory bin is a great way to introduce your infant or young toddler to gardening. This activity will help your child become more familiar with gardening textures and more inclined to perform certain tasks once they are gardening.
You can fill a container with dirt or potting soil and let your child explore the textures with their hands. This promotes their sense of touch as well as their fine motor skill of grasping. For toddlers, include a small shovel or rake to develop their gross motor skills with digging holes or raking the dirt.
Play In Dirt & Pulling Weeds or Picking Flowers
I think every child loves playing in the dirt. We have a raised garden bed that is the perfect height for my daughter. She is able watch as I tend the garden area and learn to mimic skills I am performing.
Her new favorite activity is grabbing a handful of dirt and examining it. She may hold the dirt in her hand for awhile or pick it up and throw it back down. She will also transfer the dirt from inside the garden bed to outside the garden bed. Although this is not ideal for my garden, I let her continue since she is using gross and fine motor skills.
My daughter loves a certain plant in my butterfly garden, a small yellow flowering plant. She picks a few flower stems and walks around the yard with them. Since this discovery, I have tried to point out different plants or weeds around the yard for her to pick. At first she was only interested in her favorite plant, after a day or two (and a persistent mom) she started to take interest in picking more weeds (dandelions) than my flowers.
My butterfly garden is saved, for now.
Help Plant Seeds & Water Plants
Helping plant seeds is more suited for older toddlers with good hand and eye coordination, however, young children will still find digging fun.
First, have your child dig a small hole or trench in your garden. Secondly, let your child place each seed in the hole or trench and cover.
For young children, let them dig the hole or trench and watch as you place each seed and cover. If your child is, shall we say, a bit “vigorous with the dirt”, I would wait on letting them cover up seeds. You may not know where they will end up.
If your child enjoys helping around the house with everyday chores, they will definitely enjoy help watering plants.
A watering can may be too heavy for a young toddler to handle. A small spray bottle is the perfect size for their small hands and encourages fine motor skill development with press/release of the handle.
For older children, a small plastic or metal watering can is the best size. Just like with sensory bins, your child will continue to use and develop their fine motor skills through filling and watering (pouring).
Homemade Bird Feeder
Recycled Paper Towel Bird Feeder
This is a fun and easy craft that you more than likely already have all the items for at home.
The items you will need are:
- Cardboard paper towel roll
- Peanut Butter (I prefer creamy)
- Bird seed
- String or twine
- Stick or popsicle stick
While supervised, show your child how to evenly spread the peanut butter onto the paper towel roll. Next, roll your peanut butter covered roll through the bird seed.
If your child has not mastered the “rolling” motion yet, you can also use the scoop and pour method to cover the roll.
Lastly, cut 2 holes in the bottom and top of the roll. Thread your string or twine through the top holes and your stick or popsicle stick through the bottom.
Hang and enjoy!
*** Do not hang when wet weather is in the future forecast, the cardboard roll will fall apart***
Take A Trip To A Garden Center or Local Nursery
For families that may not have the opportunity to have a large yard or garden area, this is a great option to introduce plants to your child.
Let your child take the lead and answer any questions they may have about certain plants.
Own Garden & Tools
Giving your child their own garden space is a wonderful way for them to learn independence. Rather it be a small section of your garden area, mud kitchen or a container on your patio, they will have their own space to watch their plant grow.
For homeschooling preschool or school aged children, you can incorporate their garden area into lesson activities. Along with lesson activities, here are several garden based books that your child will love.
- We Are Gardeners by Joanna Gaines
- National Geographic Readers: Seed to Plant
- Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
- Little Critter: A Green, Green Garden by Mercer Mayer
Along with their own garden area, give your child size appropriate tools. They may enjoy using items mommy and daddy use everyday, but they can become easily frustrated with items that are too heavy or large for them.
I chose a garden set that is made from metal and not plastic. Plastic sets are perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong. A metal garden set is durable and promotes building body strength compared to a lightweight plastic set. I, however, have a very rough child and do not feel like replacing items all the time.
When selecting your child’s garden set, be sure to include a bucket or bag for storage, shovel, rake, gloves, watering can or spray bottle. I also have an apron for my daughter to wear since she is still in the “wipe my dirty hands on my clothes” phase.
Gardening can be a wonderful learning and bonding experience for you and your child. Remember to have patience and modify daily activities to better suit your child’s learning needs.