We’re on vacation for the next two weeks, but we’re leaving you in good hands with guest posts everyday AND regular Nerd Nest scheduled posts on weekdays. Today’s guest post is by Whitney from from Modern Day Memory Keeper. She’s a rad scrapbooker and cool mama to toddler twins! If you think Jonas is crazy, check out her double trouble. Hah!

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

I’m Whitney and I blog over at Modern Day Memory Keeper. Gardening is a hobby that is starting to take off in urban areas across the country and I know many friends that want to start a garden or have a garden now. I think this is amazing for so many reasons that I won’t bore you with here, but I would love to share this TED talk about the ultimate gangsta’ gardener and what growing food can mean to a community. (Note from Megan and Jake: Watch it! Nerds love TED talks.)

A few years ago we decided to put a garden in the side yard we share with our neighbors. I have loved trying out different vegetables and eating food fresh from the ground. I grew up gardening with my dad and grandmother and knew when I had children that gardening would be something to share with them.

Then I had twins and my passion for gardening was not met with the same amount of free time and I had to let it slip. This year I decided to venture back out there, toddlers in tow, and get to growing. I’m happy to say it has become something the three of us love to do most mornings together and there is nothing better than hearing one of them ask to ‘go garden’. I thought I would share my tips with you on getting the most out of your garden and still letting your toddlers (or children in general) experience it with you! Here are my top ten tips for gardening with toddlers:

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

1. Let go of perfection/be playful

Ahahaha this is pretty much the only way to get through life with toddlers, but thought it would be a good point in gardening with toddlers. Have you ever tried to help someone with a project and they get frustrated when you don’t do it right and just take over and do it themselves? You learn nothing, you feel shamed, and you probably don’t want to help them ever again.

If you’re out in the garden and you’re planting seeds, let the kids help. Show them what to do but then let them try! Yes you might end up with random okra growing in the walkway, but there’s no point in bringing them with you if they can’t do anything. So lighten up, realize there will be imperfections, leaves will be torn, under ripe fruit will be picked, just let them experience it all.

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

2. Give them a job

This will help with number one. I have seen the damage done to a small area when toddlers are set free on it! Be clear and give them a job from the get go.

My son loves to pull weeds. I bring him over to an area where he can pull weeds to his heart’s content and you should see him beam.

My daughter loves to water so I set her up with a pail and point her to the thirstiest plant.

Toddlers can be helpful, just be clear in directions and make them manageable.

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

3. Let them play

Part of the joy of working outside as a family is letting my kids explore.

We live in the middle of Dallas, Texas and there are few places where they can just run free.

While our garden is small, it is enclosed, so if they take off down the squash row to chase a butterfly or follow a bug around the house I know that they are getting to be adventurous in a toddler friendly way.

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

4. Be an example

I am not an expert gardener by any means. My method is simply to plant things and see if they grow. The key for me is discipline. Not much will grow in a garden if you don’t tend to it, so be an example to your children of the work that goes in to growing food. It is rewarding but it is definitely work. I think showing our children tangible examples of hard work can set the foundation very early for a strong work ethic. Also I think showing how to care for your environment and feed others is something that sticks with them too. Toddlers are so observant and are the ultimate copycats. Give them some good habits to copy!

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

5. Let them harvest

This is the best part! It’s also sometimes the hardest for me. I have had one too many things picked that weren’t quite ready, but I think if you are gardening for your family and you want them to eat the food you grow, then they better get to be part of the excitement that is seeing a ripe and ready tomato in their chubby little hands!

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

6. Give them a taste

This goes along with the harvest: sometimes you have to taste what you grow right away. My son bit into a juicy tomato in our garden the other day and nothing made me happier than seeing him gobble that tomato down! A toddler eating a tomato? Crazy! My daughter wanted to try the pepper that she so proudly picked so we took it inside and I gave her a small bite. Did she eat the whole thing? No of course not, but she decided to try it and I think that’s great. Now she just picks the peppers and hands them immediately to me.

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

7. Know when to go solo

Sometimes there is work to be done that just can’t be completed in that short cool spell of the day with toddlers at your side. These are the times you need to make a plan to go solo.

This is tricky for me since I’m home all day with my two, but I usually have a few evenings or weekend mornings where I can enlist my husband to distract the kids for me.

I’ve gotten more composting, big planting, and plant feeding done in those short spans without kids than I ever could have done all summer long with them. Know when you need to keep them out and plan your work around it.

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

8. See what they see

There are things that I know they will like, bugs being a big draw to the outside in general, but I love the moments when they point out a funny shaped leaf or a tiny piece of fruit and stop to talk about it with me. Gardening is about being observant so acknowledge when they see something that is new or different. Taking a minute to see what they see and hear what they have to say is something that can be challenging in every day, on the go life. Luckily time in the garden is sacred and it’s a great space to really take those moments with them.

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

9. Realize sometimes the dirt is the best part

I read that last tip and thought it sounded really deep so let’s get down to it.

Toddlers love dirt. The only thing better than dirt is mud. So let them have at it! Give them tools and an area to dig and don’t worry if there isn’t a green thing to be found. That’s just part of growing up and for us city folk it can be hard to remember that!

10 Tips for Gardening with Kids with Whitney from Modern Day Memory Keeper

10. Expect short attention spans:

A lot of these tips make it seem like we spend leisurely mornings out in the garden. My children on one side pulling weeds or observing butterflies and me in my hat on the other picking my beautiful harvest… yeah, that is not how it works. Toddlers have short attention spans so prepare for that. Know that pulling weeds may only last 5 minutes, someone may step on that bug they were so excited about, or your dog may bring you a dead rodent. Sorry, am I being too specific? Some mornings we are out in the garden for an hour, some for 10 minutes tops. The point is that we are out there together growing food almost every single day.

I hope you feel inspired to get growing! Fall gardening is a lot of fun, there are so many different options out there. I have a local nursery that is so helpful in teaching me what grows in my area and when so I suggest you find one in your area. Of course online is good too, but there’s nothing better than talking shop in person.

I hope I was nerdy enough for Megan and Jake and all their readers! Now get growing!

Whitney blogs at Modern Day Memory Keeper. She’s a ballet teacher and scrapbooker extraordinaire but mostly she’s a mom to two-year-old twins and one anxiety-ridden dog. She likes to share the good things going on in her family’s lives to remind themselves how beautiful life can be. You can follow along with her gardening adventures, see her crazy toddlers’ antics, and follow along with her everyday life. Chat with her on twitter, facebook, and instagram (her personal favorite).