Gardening Moms with a Toddler Tips

Updated on April 15, 2013
D.M. asks from Wheeling, IL
14 answers

How do you guys manage to get yard work and gardening projects done with a toddler to watch? We do not have a fence and I spend more time chasing mine than working. I've tried giving him his own toys, "projects", helping me, but nothing keeps his attention more than ten minutes. I don't have anyone that can watch him regularly right now. Any advice other than limiting my gardening to nap time?

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answers from Columbus on

- Playpen
- Sandbox

My children had their own little plot of ground about 2' x 2' to take care of. Toddlers aren't too young to start. Give him some vegetable/flower plants or seeds that grow pretty easily and quickly and tell him he has to take care of it. My kids got a big kick out of having their own garden - they would go out every day and water it, weed it, put in stakes, etc. They really took care of it!!

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Chicago on

We bought a fence --worth every penny. Seriously, if you are planning on having more kids, find the money for a fence. We did ours in parts, so it took two years, but it was well worth it.

I put my kids to work. They have their own rakes, shovels, little buckets to put yard waste or veggies in, etc. They even have garden gloves. And yes, 10 minutes is about their attention span when they are a toddler. My three year old is now willing to work for about 30 minutes. In fact, he and his 5 year old sister cleaned out a flower bed for me this year. It was great!

Nap time is a great time to get serious work done ;-) if you must entertain while working, let the toddler water plants. Toddlers can water for hours without getting bored..... They'll need a bath afterwards, but at least it keeps them occupied! Also, buy a plastic trowel and provide a digging spot in the yard. They can dig for hours too!

And of course, yard toys! Lots of yard toys! Worth every penny....Freecyle or Craigslist are great ways to get free swing sets. I got an old Rainbow set that would cost 15k new for free a few years ago! You have to be patient, be willing to go take it apart yourself, but there are some great finds out there.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

A neighbor made a "yard" for her toddlers. They are a year apart so she really was running after them. We all know how fast they can take off. She bought lattice peices from the hardware store, had them cut down to 4 feet (already 4 feet wide) and nailed them to 1 x 2s and tied the separate pieces together. Then when she was doing a project outside, she put them into their little space. In the winter, she took the pieces and stores them in the garage. It looked similar to those playards that you can buy--white plastic fencing that is octogonal in shape. But she paid a lot less than those cost. Last sumer she was able to get at least an hour. She put little things for them to explore, like a tray of water, a small sandbox ,one time gave them plastic flower pots.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would say that unless he can hang inside a portacrib, give him his own garden. Make a corner of dirt for him and get him his own set of tools and some seeds, etc. maybe add a bench and throw in a few dirt toys. If he's too young to go for that yet, ( but he will soon and he'll love it!) then you could always get an inexpensive fence set, and keep him contained. I know it's frustrating but they're young for such a little while, just have fun with him.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Mine would sit in the sandbox forever.

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answers from Raleigh on

A sandbox keeps my 2 1/2 year old entertained for an hour or more while I'm working close by. If he's old enough, you can try that.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

What helped me was to have a containment option on hand and to make this part of a two-choice situation:

Kiddo used to run toward the street a lot. This is what I did:
Me: Kiddo, you may play over here (pointing) by Mama, or you may sit in the stroller.
Kiddo wanders off.
Me: Okay, time for the stroller. You need to be safe here now.
Then, I would buckle him into the umbrella stroller and have it nearby. I understood that at a young age, time out was not helpful, so I did give him some things to do which were within reach (Usually on those plastic links) and worked for a while.

I also gave him a patch of dirt and a small shovel for digging, or a basket to let him 'pick' a certain plant like rosemary or another safe herb. Sidewalk chalk was also fun for him. But by far, the stroller was the most helpful tool. Everytime he wandered toward the street or wandered away, he was given one 'choice' to stay safe or stroller and then I'd pop him right in. If you bring out a basket of simple hand-held toys ( mini magna doodle, board books, etc.) that really helps to have those things on hand.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Exactly how old is he?
If he's really young, you could bring out the playpen, baby swing & put
him near you.
If he's older, it's easier. You could put him in one of those Lil Tykes Elmo
red looking cars where they pedal around w/their feet.
You could put him in front of a plastic planter box on the ground w/dirt in
it & put some little Matbox cars in there, his own toddler plastic shovel,
sm cup of water so her can make little puddles of water etc. He can
work beside you.
Or do it around lunch time & try having him have a picnic w/his favorite
lunch foods.
Or put a blanket down next to you & bring out some of his favorite little
toys to play w/on the blanket next to where you garen.
Give him a kid's book w/pictures of garden tools etc.
Or bring out tupperware for him to fill w/dirt.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I just did it. Never thought about it. Did it take so much longer. For sure, but it got done eventually. I was never one to analyze how to do when you have kids. Just did what I had to do, without much thought. Never had a fenced in yard. Lots of toys for them outside to play with close to me, whatever I was doing.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

No fence in my yard either. But mine to like to 'help' especially if it involves them getting their hands on a hose. Of course, you have to be prepared to get wet and for them to be soaked, but the plants will get watered.

Or, a few inches of water in a baby pool and some plastic cups can keep a child occupied for a while too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I take the pack n play outside and put him in it with some toys and a snack. Its the only way I can get anything done. I tried letting him play in the yard, but he eats dirt.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

i have an above ground jacuzzi I keep at 99 degrees and toss my 2.5 and 5 year old in. Its extra shallow so two year old can stand in it, but I put floaties on her, and then I'm right there with them. They are happy in there for an hour at a time. They will also be happy to play together near me. But when my first was an only, I couldn't garden at all. She just could't play alone outside very well. Plus at the time my garden was on the side yard with access to the front yard, so I had to be too vigilant with the street, I couldn't accomplish anything.
Now we have swing, a dirt pile, a fountain, and a play house in the back yard, so I can get a good 1.5 or even 2 hours out of them. But at the end of the day, its the siblings that makes it possible. Only children need their parent as a playmate, so you get less done.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You must have a runner!
Mine were always pretty good outside, digging, playing with water and sand.
And they loved mud.
I hope you get some good advice, the only thing I can think of is trying to get to know some other moms in the area and switch off babysitting a few times a week. Is there a moms club, or playgroups through the community center or a local church?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

My son helps me with the gardening a lot now.
It would have been impossible when he was a toddler but our back yard was fenced so we were fine in the back.
The garden beds at the front of the house were pretty neglected for a few years.
Once he was about 4 he was great with helping me carry all the yard tools around.

1 mom found this helpful
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