help with a two year old!

leoness(Nebraska)March 17, 2002

my son is so into gardening, he loves to help me, but his help is ofted ... well.... not the best, i had just finished planting a BUNCH of bulbs and about 15min after i was done he brought them all to me, i am looking for a plant or activity for him to make him feel like he is helping but, actually keep him out of my plants lol, i want to encourage him, but he is causing trouble, i prefer to redirect than tell him no, he helps plant and water but that isint enuf, please help.

thank you


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Hehe. I understand entirely. I have a 4 year old and a 18 mo old. The 18 mo old simply needs constant supervision in the garden. Just today she helped me in weeding our herb garden by throwing my newly planted basil into the weed bucket. *SIGH* With our four-year-old, we've recently adopted a new approach. She has been given here own small plot in the garden. This is hers to decide what to plant, etc. However, this is still new. She is very involved because of the novelty, but she seems to be quite pleased with the idea of having her own area of land. I try not to get involved unless she ask me for specific information (Is this a weed or something good? etc). However, only time will tell if this approach will 'bear fruit' (Pun intended!)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2002 at 9:00PM
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Maybe if he can play in the sand box and pretend he is planting and taking care of his own. Just having him bringing things to you can be great help. Time and patience. Having him picking a bouquet of flowers from some of weeds etc/\. Just let him be a boy and help whenever. Charles

    Bookmark   March 23, 2002 at 7:18PM
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nora_in_vancouver(8b Wet Coast)

It's pretty hard when they are two. Mine like to play with worms, that was good for a short time. A running hose and a pile of dirt is usually good fun. Bury pennies and have a treasure hunt. Mix grass seed and dirt and stuff into a long nylon stocking. Tie the end closed. The grass will grow and you will have a grass snake. Grass snakes are great for kids longing to cut things with scissors.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2002 at 12:28AM
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I love that grass snake idea. I also save my old squirt bottles and drag out a big tub, fill it up and bring out the bubbles and let him ahve fun squirting things, Sandbox helps for awhile. It is also ggod to involve them in some sort of story that requires approproate action on there part. I got my two year to hlep me transplant moss telling him it was moon cheese. Whatever works!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2002 at 10:17PM
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I have a two year old daughter and both my husband and I are avid gardeners. We try to involve my daughter as much as possible. She has her own little plastic wheelbarrow, lawnmower, shovel, hoe, etc. Everything we do, except for pruning, she can do too. In our backyard, last year we let her plant and tend the plants of two half whiskey barrels. Of course, when the plants looked like they were goners, I would plant new ones without her knowing. She/we planted sweet peas, black eyed susan vine, snaps, and marigold. There were times that new perrenials were trampled on by little feet running through the gardens, even though we have pathways, but I soon put up barriers. I bought plant supports and tomato cages for all my new perrenials. At least that way, the plants get one less season of trampling. We have a sandbox for our daughter, but she is always more interested in what we are doing. My advice is get the little ones involved and be prepared for some accidents.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2002 at 3:19PM
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My sons love to help me in the garden. When they were younger it was sometimes aggravating to accept their "help", but it made them so happy! My patience has been rewarded. Now that they are 4 and 6, they are careful around our gardens, as they know what grows where and did some of the work involved.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2002 at 7:58PM
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I found just having my toddler in the garden and calling it "gardening" was 'helpful'. They don't actually have to be gardening...bugs/worms/pennies all great ideas and I will use some of them.

I have a hard time not yelling when the destruction comes...BIG BREATHS...But now he is 6 and I've seen that it was worth while, he is kinder to the bugs, can recogninze a bud becomes a flower and enjoys the Butterflies and Birds, now that the Wildlife Garden is getting better established.

But just this weekend, he had to dig a hole in a perfectly
flat piece of ground, plant Tuna as bait, and hopes to catch a Coyote as a pet... One just has to love them!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2002 at 4:22PM
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My son is 4 and we got him a big butterfly net. He can walk through the grass and catch the jumping grasshoppers, katydids, etc. He also catches butterflies but sometimes they are a little fast for him. Also, I have an old metal washtub outside and he has a plastic cup that he collects rolypolies/doodle bugs, worms, caterpillars and frogs/toads in and then puts them in the metal washtub. Collect a few good sized branches and they can watch how everything tries to escape. Also you can watch the frogs eat the grasshoppers. Keeps them busy and when you are through don't forget to set everything free.
Also I let him fill up his watering can from his swimming pool as many times as he wants and water any trees he feels needs his help.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2002 at 4:27PM
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duffy(zone5, Pa.)

I'd have him plant onions sets for you. They're so easy to plant, fun to watch grow too. Then you can ask him to pick them for you, he'll be so proud! You also can't beat mint. It's a very tough plant. Make sure it's planted in a spot where it can't spread! My 2-year old loved when I asked her to go pick some mint for our iced tea.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2002 at 8:15AM
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I give my 2 y/o a spray bottle full of water and have him "water" the plants for me. This keeps him busy for a long time because there are many things other than plants that he feels he needs to spray- like the sidewalk, the dog, me, innocent passers-by, etc.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2002 at 1:47AM
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Just take a deep breath and remember next year he'll be three. Try not to discourage his interest (which can be hard to do) This year I lost my columbine (I pulled all these buttercups for you mum!) and my onions (Are these weeds, mum?) but its still only June! Last month I felt my patience pay off when I went for a walk in the neighbourhood with my eldest kids (5 and 3) and they named at least two plants in every garden we passed. We walked by more than one person who was left speechless at their knowledge and to be honest I was very suprised they had been listening to me all this time. I just hope my other two will be as interested.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2002 at 12:46AM
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What good ideas.
I got mine bug catchers which are essentially a cup with a little 10X magnifier on it. That is good for HOURS.
Last summer I planted 2 trees and of course they looked like twigs when I planted them. My oldest planted herself a "Tree" also, right by the back door.
She had this stick in the ground. I thought she thought the stick was gonna sprout. This spring she came to me with this acorn and asked me if I thought it was gonna sprout after being in the ground all this time. Since when was it in the ground? Since last spring you know when I planted the tree mom.....
Ok so she knew more than I gave her credit for. Then I felt bad. She religiously watered her "tree" last spring and summer so well that I bought her a tree of her choice from Wal Mart this spring. She chose a pink dogwood. It is so pretty and she has done great taking care of its watering.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2002 at 10:09PM
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My daughter is now three and it is such a change from last year. This year her "helping me" is actually helpful so be patient.

I have a wooden horse swing that my father made that hangs from a big oak that she would play with. She couln't get on it by herself last year but she would lay on her belly and use her feet which touched the ground to swing herself. She really enjoyed this.

I have paths in my garden so she alwasy enjoys her little "hikes" through the garden.

I have blueberries and tomatoes growing right now that she enjoys picking and eating. Of course if you have any poisonous berries, seeds, fruit in your garden this would not be feasible for she may mistake them and eat them by accident.

I would let her have a picnic in the garden while I worked. She'd have her sippie cup and some snacks to keep her hands busy. And popsicles, I must say, have been a real life saver to keep her entertained.

The spray bottle is a great idea. I'll have to find one for my daughter. I know she'll love it.

My daughter can't wait to go out in the garden and we spend a lot of time out there. She has been in the garden with me since she was born. I've taken time from my garden chores to point out bugs and worms, to buds that the next day we find have opened, to holes that squirrels have dug to hide their nuts,... you get the picture. Enjoy your gardening while also enjoying the time you are with your child and take the opportunity to teach them some of the wonders of nature.

Gardening is a wonderful gift to share with them.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2002 at 5:05PM
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I created a Play yard inside our standard sized city back yard. It has a sandbox, chips under a swingset and is shaded by a wonderful plum tree. It has a gate with a creeping rose growing on it. The play yard is fenced with a roll of 4 foot plastic coated wire fencing and posts. It went up in an hour even though I was six month pregnant at the time. It keeps the youngest kids away from the toxic plants and keeps the dog from pooping where the kids crawl and sprawl. It allows them to watch everything, but keeps them away from basement stairs, lawnmovers, and other hazards. I think it will be time to take it down when my two year old learns not to pick up dog poop. He has radar for the stuff and can find even the littlest piece that we missed.

That said, even with toys, and food, and drinks they want to be where the action is. My just turned two year old loves worms. He tries to feed them. My three 1/2 year old picks all the flowers she can get her hands on. I've left all the dandylions and clover just for her. We have strawberries and peas growing just for them to pick. I'm also a fan of sunflower and radishes. The radish are the first to grow and since none of eat them we transplant them for fun when we need something to do. I don't mind that none of them survive after transplanting. Left alone they blossom and are additional fun for my princess to pick.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2002 at 3:08PM
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bhnash(z16(9) CA)

Ah- great thread! I have a 13 month old daughter and can't wait to try some of your suggestions next season! My poor garden isn't looking so great this year as the only time I get to spend in it is during naps, usually watering. I think I'm going to print out the thread and keep it for reference later.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2002 at 1:37AM
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bhnash(z16(9) CA)

My husband reminded me of his experience in the garden when he was but a wee lad. He said he'd spend hours hunting for snails. He'd line them up and run them over with his "big wheel" A quote from DH "We had the fewest snails in the neighborhood after that, but our sidewalk was uglier than sin." LOL

    Bookmark   September 15, 2002 at 1:47AM
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mycarbumps(Zone 6b E.TN)

they make those invisable fences for dogs to keep them from running in the road, maybe you could implement something like that, "here honey, i got you a pretty new necklace"
(Just ~Ryan

    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 8:57AM
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taffyj(8b LA)

I got a huge pot just for my 2 yr old to "garden" in. My only mistake was putting good, soft black soil in it. I even envied that big pot. I wanted him to start with good soil so anything he put in there would have a better chance of growing. Hah! I gave him some little plastic tools to putter around with, and kept an eye half on him while I weeded in my spring flowers. When I really turned around to look at him a half hour later to see why he was so quiet, my jaw dropped. He had emptied the pot half way, turned it over onto the lawn, then used his tools to get the rest of the soil out. He was sitting in the turned over pot making truck noises. I guess I'll try again next year!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2003 at 11:06PM
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Alliegator(z5 UT)

My little boy is 20 months- so almost 2. At this point i have peas and onions planted, so i jut let him dig wherever those aren't. He likes to dump shovel fulls of dirt on the drive way. I think it may become a problem when plants start to come up. He is getting better about not running in the raised beds though- when he does i remove him and tell him to stay on the grass. He also really enjoys putting dirt in the dog's water dish. It's hard to get much done. :)
I will have to try some of the ideas here.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2003 at 1:49PM
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ticksmom419(z7 NC)

I'm so glad someone resurrected this thread. My two-year old is WAY into the gardening scene. She's going to deadhead and weed me right out of existence. This thread helps me to put this into perspective. This is just one year in my yard's life. And such an important year in hers. It's important not to thwart her desire to get into everything, as much as I can stand to watch her do it, anyway. There will be other years when her interest will pay off. Only sad thing is that I'm so new at this and my beds are so new, I kind of can't bear for them to not reach their fullest potential this year. I'm as excited as ANY two-year old about them! But I love her more, so c'est la vie.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2003 at 7:50PM
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beckyishere(6 IL)

My yongest is five now, and she has always "helped" in the garden. Giving her tools of her own, and hoping she dosent whack one of us in the head worked when she was little, and I just let her help, if she dug things up I would just put it back. As she got older she helped more and understood that things only needed to be planted once. This year she wants her own garden, and was telling our nieghbor that he was planting his bulbs upside down, he was but didnt seem to like the idea of a little one knowing more than him. They are only small once, and they try so hard to help, if a flower comes up in a odd space because they moved it while your back was turned, look at it as a suprise and mow around it. Becky

    Bookmark   March 22, 2003 at 7:40AM
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pattilacy(z8 TX)

What a great thread. My son is 5 and has his garden veggies. Last yea he planted green beans and tended them. Our fisrt few green beans we brought in one night. It was late and he was tired so I said I would fix them so he could eat them with breakfast. Always let your spouse in on these things because he saw them and got tempted and ate them himself. My 5 year old told him to grow his own green beans. This year we mass planted a 4X4 bed of just green beans. They have sprouted and are headed for the sky. Our son reminded him yesterday those are his green beans, if there are extras he will share.
This year he has shown a huge intrest in trees. We got several new fruit trees that we put in his forest area. He had a pear and pine tree and now there are 1 persimmon, 2 plums, 1 peach and a fig. He has been watering one of them everyday since planting. Another favorite activity is getting fig tree clippings and helping me root them. He wants them all in our backyard but I am getting him to give a few away to his favorite families and friends.
He really wants a banana tree for his room, still debating that one.
He is 5 so hopefully this is what you can look forward to. We are so pleased he has taken an intrest and loves to take veggies (the ones he doesn't like to eat) and share them with everyone.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2003 at 3:20PM
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Briar_Brian(z5b OH)


WOW! Your question really sparked everyone's interest! All of the details above are great, but when you're in the heat of the moment and you forget the specifics, remember ... DIRT AND WATER, WATER AND DIRT. Give him one or both (at a safe distance from you and your tender plants, and you may be lucky enough to get five minutes of uninterrupted time.

The single best solution for me has been the garden hose, preferably with a pistol-type grip. I introduced my boy to it at age 18 months. He's five years old now and can still keep himself occupied for a solid hour with that thing.

Disclaimer: Briar Brian assumes no responsibility for sneak water-hose attacks, wet dogs, wet radios, wet car interiors, wet neighbors or wet spouses.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2003 at 9:50AM
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vivi(z5 NY)

One more vote for the dirt and water...I had to be careful last year, though, since my little guy liked to play in it AND dine on it!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2003 at 10:56AM
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funkypuppy(z9 CA)

give him some places where it's ok to dig and also some very large rocks and logs (too big to pick up and/or throw) and ask him to help you by rolling/pushing them to various places in the garden. Guaranteed to tire him out!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2004 at 12:32AM
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triboys(5 Cent Iowa)

I have found that a small flat tub (9x13 pan or under the bed box) filled with dirt has been a life saver for me. I have a 5, 3, & 1 year old and they all love to create in their own boxes. For the baby I gave him some plastic tools and some wooden popsicle sticks to poke in the dirt. The older boys got to pick their own plants from the garden center and plant to their taste. It is mobile and fun, so they can play and you can keep an eye on them. A few extra seeds (like watermelon or pumpkin) also makes them feel like they are doing real work.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2004 at 10:37AM
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WPalm033(Chicago Z6)

I suggest putting in a cactus such as a prickly pear or other sharp one that could survive in your area. Then when he goes to toutch it, well he will learn his lesson about toutching your plants. Then he wont ever do it again to anything else, and you will all be happy.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2004 at 1:43AM
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frankentrina(z8b TX)

I didn't have a house I could garden at until my son was 2 1/2 (hes 4 1/2 now). He loves helping me out. He's always been a really observant child, and I show him what plants are weeds and what aren't, and he helps me pull them...the right ones too. When I'm planting new plants and flowers, he has his own tool set, even a kneeling pad, and I show him where I need a hole and he digs it for me. He also has this John Deere powerwheels dump truck thing, and he likes hauling stuff around the yard for me. I have a big pile of rocks, and we go get loads of them in his truck and my wheel barrow when I'm setting up a new flowerbed, or a load of mulch or compost to use wherever we need it, or I put the trash weeds and rocks I find when I'm clenaing up a spot into his truck and we take them to where they need to go. I'm starting a vegetable garden next year, and he's really looking forward to that. I'm sure he'll really get a kick out of the tomato hornworms, since he likes picking bugs where I'm working too. He keeps the snails and pillbugs for whatever reason and puts the worms we find back into the flowers or in the compost pile if we find some elsewhere. He has a pet toad now, so he gives it the bugs he finds now. Just today we were picking leaf-rolling caterpillars off my cannas and feeding them to the toad.

I would suggest really not worrying about trying to include your kids in REAL gardening work until they are 3 or so...then they have a better understanding of whats going on. ANy younger than that and they're just going to keep pulling up what you just planted. I'm going to have a hard time with that once my 2-month-old is outside with us when he's older. Maybe just set up a "pretend" garden area for them. This would be easy for me since I use raised-bed gardening, I can just make an extra section. They could even plant the seeds from watermelon you buy at the store (or if you grew one and ate it)...I'm always finding watermelon and cantaloupe vines popping up in my flwoerbeds from seeds that got into the compost pile. They sprout really fast, but I doubt they will make anything. Potatoes too. Cut up a potato and have them plant it. It will make a big plant.

And I disagree with WPalm033 about the cactus. A lot of cactus spines are difficult and painful to remove, especially from a screaming squirming child ("NOOOOOOOO!") I've had my share of splinter-removal ordeals. Plus some kinds of cacti have a poison or something in their spines and hurt for a long time afterward. ALso many cactus spines "disappear" against the color of your skin. Most of the prickly pear we have around here look like they dont have spines at all, just little fuzzy bumps, but they are really tiny spines and are really hard to get out. The ones with the great big long spines also have those tiny ones at the base. A safer alternative to actual cactus would be aloe vera. They are spiny, but dont have the needles like cacti that will get stuck in your skin. Plus you can use their gel for burns. You cant teach a child that way anyway...that by touching the cactus he wont touch any other plants. Then he just wont touch the cactus again.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2004 at 3:19PM
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Love the grass snake idea! But how do you keep it wet?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 12:55PM
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