Toddlers in the Garden

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I grew up in the garden with my parents.  Every year what we weren’t able to grow in our own garden, we picked at local co-ops or bought from farm stands.  I dreamed of being able to do this with my own children someday and last summer, when Liam was finally old enough to care about spending the day outside, we did just that.  He was just barely 1, but he certainly enjoyed sitting in the middle of my plants and getting his chubby little hands dirty.

This year, Liam is really into “helping”.  He has his own little spade and rake to use in the dirt.  We moved in the Fall, so our yard is still a blank canvas.  This year, we’ll be doing mostly container gardening while we prep the ground for a real planting next year.  Those containers will be just his height to help water every night before bed.  We have strawberries and raspberries waiting to be put in the ground this weekend and I’m excited to let him help dig the holes for the canes.  

One of my favorite things about toddlers is their contagious enthusiasm.  He loves to grocery shop with me because I let him pick out the carrots or the asparagus.  We practice our color identification and we count apples.  Because I love food so much, he loves to grocery shop and cook with me.  This year, I’m excited to teach him about tomatoes and show him the plant before during and after the tomatoes sprout.  I can’t wait to put that first garden-fresh tomato in his hands and let him taste it.  And I can’t wait to hear him say “mmmmmm!” as the juice drips down his chin. 

**Of course, our littlest family member will also be along for the ride, but her first real introduction to our gardening life won’t be until this Fall when we begin Baby Led Weaning as a way to introduce her to solid foods.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn’t think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family’s simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don’t like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer’s Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer’s Market has become her son’s classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment‘s hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature’s Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter’s blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it’s a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children’s generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family’s food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don’t have a garden? “You can still grow food!” says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she’s doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer’s MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it’s important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening with Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for urban gardening with kids — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn’t Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it’s never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse “bean teepee” and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin’ (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.
  • The Dirty Truth

    Photo taken from the Official Publisher Page for Ms. Kimball
    This past Christmas, my husband bought me a Nook.  As an avid reader and one who has a nasty habit of having 4 books going at the same time, I was thrilled to have everything in the same place.  And instead of purchasing a hard copy of the book and it taking up space, it’s right there on the hard drive waiting for me.  The first book I read on my Nook was the The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  I’ll admit that I picked the book simply because I liked the cover and upon reading the synopsis, I was convinced that this would be another book that would fuel my desire for my urban homestead.
    In actuality, I’d have to say that this book did just the opposite.  In this book, Kristin chronicles her life as she met a farmer in Pennsylvania and then moved with him to Upstate New York to start a farm that would provide a full-diet CSA.  At the time that she and her farmer where doing this, the CSA culture wasn’t really as trendy as it is now and they were starting from total scratch on a muddy, run-down piece of property that only her farmer could see the true value of.  As I read, I was struck with the realization that farm life is real.  If one is to be truly self-sustaining, then you have to fully participate in the circle of life.  I personally, am not strong enough to do that.  I can grow things, but I suppose the livestock will have to be left to the professionals.
    Throughout the book, as Kristin talks of their life and the changes that they made to the farm, including returning to the roots and using horse power to plow their fields behind an old Amish plow, I was amazed.  Here were two people who set a goal and really did it.  She is beyond candid as she speaks of the volumes of work, of the fatigue and the fear as they struggled through that first year.  As aware of my own weaknesses as I was, I also became a bit jealous of this life.  There is no other greater pride, I think, that working with your hands to accomplish something and succeeding.  To wake up every morning and see the land stretch before you, to hear the chicken clucking in your yard, to see the cellar fill with your hard-won produce neatly preserved, this is the success that the corporate ladder climbers can only dream of.

    Shortly after I finished this book, I learned that my cousin and his wife have started their own CSA in Ontario, Canada.  Having read the story of how Kristin and her farmer started their own, I am all the more proud of my cousins.  I know this means I won’t get to see them until after the harvest, but I that they are richer for it.  This year, my own garden isn’t prepped at all and anything that’s grown in my yard will have to be in a pot on the porch to protect it from the deer.  Instead, I’m living my own version of the Dirty Life vicariously through the blog and photos that my cousin is sweet enough to post.  And dreaming of the day when my kids are old enough for a trip to visit and work on the farm.