So often, parents spend much of their time attempting to keep toddlers clean. This summer why not let them get a little dirty? What better way is there to introduce a child to the joys of nature than to allow him or her to help out in the garden? Here are some fun, child-friendly ways to keep your toddler entertained outdoors.
1. Even the very young can be involved in the gardening experience. From an early age children love to mimic what Mom or Dad does. Provide your toddler with some child's plastic gardening tools and set aside a small area of the garden where he or she can dig, hoe and water freely. Even though children this age may be too young to handle plants, they will enjoy discovering things like worms!
2. Choose brightly colored plants that grow quickly for your child's garden. You can even create a rainbow of similarly sized flowers by planting them in arched rows. With a little imagination these bright blossoms will become bouquets, necklaces, crowns and more!
3. Introduce your toddler to a world of fragrances and textures by planting unique plants and herbs. Fragrant varieties include mint, chamomile, catnip, aloe, rosemary, lavender or scented geraniums. Mimosa pudica, or the 'touch-me-not' plant has leaves which curl up if you touch them. Such plants as lamb's ear, cotton, silver sage, globe thistle, and African sundew provide a range of tactile sensation.
4. Planting in unusual containers can also make gardening with toddlers fun and exciting. Whether you paint faces on pots, let them help you made oddly shaped clay planters, or hang dried gourds around the garden, your child will enjoy the variety.
5. Who doesn't love a garden that you can eat? Kids love planting vegetables and watching them grow into something that might one day end up on their dinner table! Toddlers enjoy harvesting as well. Give your child a basket and let him/her help pick the produce when it is ready. You can also intrigue your child by planting vegetables that come in unusual colors such as blue potatoes, red corn, and purple peas.
6. Toddlers and children aged three and up can create crafty projects that will attract wildlife to your garden. Help your child thread things like raisins, dried apricots, peanuts in the shell, and plain Cheerios cereal onto a string of garden twine to form an edible garland. This can then be hung in your garden or draped across the top of a fence for the birds to enjoy!
7. If you have the space, creating a sunflower house for your child can open up a world of experiences and imagination. Mark off a square area large enough that when you plant giant sunflowers around the perimeter, there will still be room to maneuver inside. The inside area can be planted with clover, chamomile, peppermint, spearmint and other fragrant flowers and herbs which are edible or child-friendly. Be sure that anything you plant in a toddler garden is non-poisonous. If your sunflower house is spacious enough, little garden benches can even be placed inside. The sunflower canopy will provide adequate shade, and children will be fascinated by the variety of butterflies and other insects that visit their "home."
Briana Kelly has over 5 years experience of content writing in the area of preschool and early education on behalf of Giraffe Childcare http://www.giraffe.ie