5 Ways to Keep My Son Entertained in the Garden

Family Matters on 08.15.12
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Photo: net_efekt/Creative Commons

I've been trying to create some order out of the chaos that exists in the gardens surrounding our house. The biggest hurdle is not my total lack of knowledge about gardening so much as it is knowing how to negotiate two kids in our unfenced property while trying to accomplish something. Much to my surprise and delight, however, my three-year-old son loves gardening. By 8 a.m. he's at the door, begging to go out. The result is that he's fairly easy to keep track of because he's so intrigued by what I'm doing. These are my tricks for keeping him entertained.

1. The Garden Hose

Photo: nicgep114/Creative Commons

This is his tool of choice.  By the end of an hour outside, he is completely soaked from head to toe, and insists on taking off his wet clothes.  Any sort of watering usually concludes with an argument that goes like this: "No, please leave your clothes on."  "But I want to be naaaaaked!" Warning: He takes perverse delight in soaking me, too.

2.  Trowels and Shovels

garden trowel
Photo: Benson Kua/Creative Commons

The small garden trowel delights the toddler because it looks as if it was made especially for him.  The problem, though, is that he doesn't know when to stop digging.  He is indiscriminate while digging up both good and bad plants, and I must be constantly vigilant -- though I'm not much better at knowing which is which.

3.  Plants

tomato plant
Photo: gkdavie/Creative Commons

Little seedlings delight him.  He wants to fondle and caress them, which of course they're not strong enough to handle, and we have lost a number of baby plants to his over-enthusiastically affectionate advances.  Once planted in the ground, he still wants to touch them and trample them.  A few have required emergency first-aid intervention. My plant vigilance has now extended to protecting the not-yet-ripe tomatoes which he thinks are delectable.

4.  Fauna

Monarch Caterpillar
Photo: puuikibeach/Creative Commons

It's amazing how many creatures my son spots in an hour of gardening.  He loves earthworms and usually asks me to find one as soon as we get outside, which I oblige as long as he promises never to try eating one again.  He spies beetles and collects snails, chases robins and butterflies and the odd neighbourhood cat, mimics the mourning dove, watches the squirrels and spider webs.  He even saw some baby robins learn to fly.

5.  Transportation of Garden Refuse

Photo: Aunt Owwee/Creative Commons

This is where my son really excels.  As I clean out handfuls of weeds, dead plants, leaves, and sticks, tossing them behind me onto the grass, his job is to load everything into his wagon.  He takes this job very seriously and remains focused for as long as it takes, picking up each and every stick. 

It's a mutually beneficial situation: we get nicer-looking gardens because of the attention I can give them, he burns off energy and gets fresh air, and the baby has a long, uninterrupted nap when we're outside and the house is silent.  It doesn't get much better than that.

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