With supervision, 3- to 4-year-olds should be able to do simple chores, such as removing debris, planting seeds and watering. “It’s important to fi nd simple tasks that toddlers can do by themselves to help,” Dannenmaier says. “It gives them a huge sense of mastery—especially when you tell them what a big help they’ve been and how proud you are of the beautiful fruits of this family labor.” Child-size tools, such as a mini-watering can and wheelbarrow, also encourage tots to participate.
Once your veggies are ripe and ready to be picked, be sure to include your wee one in the harvest. “It really helps kids make the connection between plants growing in the garden and the food on your table,” Adams says. Then, prepare a scrumptious salad, soup or pasta dish with your homegrown crop. Remember: To make it fun for both of you, don’t focus on mastering skills. “Early on, I learned that trying to teach my toddlers to garden led to frustration on both ends,” says Dannenmaier.
Instead, let your little one choose her activities and explore independently as much as possible. If your garden isn’t perfectly manicured or your tomatoes are lackluster, so be it. “The most important thing is to get outdoors and spend nice, long, lazy amounts of time together,” Dannenmaier adds. “One day, you may be weeding and watering; the next, you could be contemplating caterpillars.” And who knows? You may just sprout a future gardener in the process.
Go to the next page to see our tips for gardening in the city…