One reason I grow vegetables is to share the bounty with my son! I want him to know where his food comes from and how satisfying it can be to watch seeds grow into something that is yummy to eat.
William is 19 months old so he has very little attention span and his fine and gross motor skills are still developing. Some tasks, such as planting tiny seeds or waiting for those seeds to sprout over a series of days, he is just not ready for yet. Two traits make him an excellent (and entertaining) helper in the garden: his desire to help with everything and his sense of discovery.
The most obvious activity is digging around in the garden with his own tools. William has a child-size set of hand tools, a hoe, rake and shovel, and his own watering can. Even though he loves to push dirt around with those while we are readying the beds for planting, he frequently insists on taking a turn with the adult size tools. A favorite is the stirrup hoe. With a careful eye on his progress, I encourage this desire to play in the dirt.
His earnest desire to help makes him very good at gathering up weeds into a bucket or placing rocks in a more desirable area. A second benefit is practicing direction-following skills. He wants “real” tasks and so is very motivated to listen and do what is asked.
Placing seed potatoes in the hole is a garden task made for a toddler. The potatoes seem like balls and demand to be thrown and his desire to be like Mommy encourages the aim to be directed at the hole. Covering up the potatoes is also doable while watering the potatoes in (or any other watering) is an intriguing and delightful task full of giggles and lots of messiness!
Finally, William can often be found wandering about the garden (while I “spy on him to make sure he doesn’t taste any of his finds), hands behind his back, observing colors or feeling the various textures. He notices the fuzzy underside of some rhody leaves, the bumblebees buzzing around the primroses and how the view changes when he climbs up the hill in one of the flower beds. Sometimes he makes these discoveries independently while at other times he shows me his treasures and we talk about the traits of what he has found.
Of course, everything takes a bit longer to accomplish with my little partner but the delight in his face makes it a special time that I wouldn’t trade for anything!