Athena and I did a little gardening today and I thought it might be helpful to share some tips on gardening with a two-year-old. Working in the garden can help build patience, motor skills, and teach children how to care for a living thing. Some of my earliest memories are time spent in the garden with my dad and grandma – it’s great bonding time.
1. Take your child to the store to help pick out planters and other accessories. It’s fun, and children love making decisions. I let Athena pick out her very own watering can. Remember that you have to buy anything that has your child’s teeth marks. Teeth marks are forensic evidence.
2. Show your child the plants as you pick them out, and explain which plants grow tomatoes, strawberries, etc. If it turns out that strawberry plants don’t actually taste like strawberries, don’t worry – your child will spit out the leaves and flowers she has bitten off when you get to the cashier.
3. One of the most important rules of any project is the old saying, “measure twice, cut once.” A two-year-old is probably still too young to take this to heart, but she might just help you figure out how many cubic feet of potting soil you need for the five unmarked containers you’ve purchased by climbing out of the shopping cart and oh my god don’t climb out head first stop just stop it! Sit down! Stop taking off the seat belt!
4. Timing is everything. This is a big day for your child – so you should get an early start! If your daughter naps a little later than usual or you don’t decide to start the project until the last day of the three-day weekend, you can always work frantically, racing against the setting sun to get these stupid strawberries in the stupid dirt that you can’t believe you paid stupid money for. What kind of an idiot buys dirt?
5. Give your child a series of simple tasks that you know they can do, such as putting rocks in the bottom of planters and smoothing out the potting soil. Even if they are excited to help, it’s natural if their attention wanders a bit at this age. Besides I’m sure that jogging stoller was designed to handle the stress of being flipped over, but a child, from within, because it was kicked it so much.
6. Children make great gophers! No, not the small burrowing mammals, I’m talking about having them “go for” various items that you need. For example, if you need a trowel to loosen soil from a very heavy bag perched precariously in one arm, simply ask – “Athena, would you give daddy the shovel? Athena, can you get that shovel? Athena? Hey Athena girl, can you help daddy? See the shovel? Over there. Athena! Hey kiddo! Shovel? Athena! Athena, just look up. Just look up when daddy speaks. So I know you haven’t gone deaf. Athena!”
7. Involve the whole family by handing your child off to your spouse so covered in dirt and filth that she can’t possibly go to bed without another bath.
With these tips in mind, in no time your child will develop quite a “green thumb”. If her thumb physically takes on the color green, don’t worry, it’s just sidewalk chalk. Why is her ear green? Why would you put chalk in your ear? We don’t put the chalk in our ears. Get that out of your mouth! Come back here!