With a backyard overflowing with garden beds, a sustainable greenhouse, and not an inch of yard to spare, I would venture to say our family’s love for gardening is perhaps more than just a hobby.
And so naturally, when our first baby was born, we were determined to include him in all aspects of our love for gardening. I envisioned myself pulling weeds with my baby happily and unobtrusively by my side, gently pressing seeds into the soil while my baby peered out peacefully from the folds of my sling, and admiringly watching my baby brush his tiny fingers through feathery green carrot tops and furry tomato leaves. I later discovered that such a scenario was slightly more difficult to attain than I had hoped…
As the months went by and my baby flew through the lovely dependent newborn stage and became an intensely curious, independent, and sometimes defiant, tiny human, my hopes for gardening-with-baby seemed nearly impossible. During several failed attempts, the peaceful scene I had envisioned turned into chaos as I watched my little angel stuff handfuls of rocks and soil into his mouth, recklessly snap new growth off of the cherry tree, and overturn and destroy trays of newly emerged seedlings.
Gardening with babies (or at least with my baby!) seemed destined for failure. I soon became only a very part-time gardener who ran outside to catch fleeting moments in the garden each day, usually only while my baby napped.
After a few weeks of this, I knew something had to change. I longed to open my baby’s eyes to this spectacular world of seeds that miraculously sprout into green shoots that reach for the skies and somehow defy gravity to create new life and ultimately provide us with fresh, wholesome food. How could I not share this miracle with my baby? I didn’t want to wait until he was old enough to know what to do with a rake and a spade. I had to find a way to involve him right then and there.
And so I did. And so should you! There are challenges, of course, but sharing the gardening experience with your baby is worth every minute.
And it can be done, simply! Here are some ways to make it happen:
- If you practice the art of babywearing, give it a try while gardening. While you’ll be slightly more limited than you would without your baby, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish (and you’ll have two hands to do so!) Once you feel confident wearing your baby in a sling or carrier, watering your garden, trimming trees and shrubs, and even squatting to pull a few weeds will all become a breeze. Plus, your baby will love coming along for the ride and observing gardening chores from your perspective.
- Step back and give your baby some freedom to explore the beauty of nature. Find a shady area of soft grass and plop your baby down on a blanket to enjoy the fresh air while you garden nearby. Your baby might pause to watch your every move, emphatically pull blade after blade of grass, become mesmerized by the leaves as they dance in the breeze, or simply stare up to watch the clouds float by. Either way, your baby will be captivated by the sights and sounds of nature… and there’s really nothing more beautiful than that.
- Explore various plants in your garden with your baby. Find plants in your garden that you don’t mind being torn apart by your baby’s curious hands, and share with your baby the textures and scents of fragrant herbs like thyme, mint, sage, and basil. Who needs toys when you can rip sweet-smelling leaves to shreds?
- Get down and dirty with your baby… play together in the soil. A little dirt never hurt anyone, after all! Babies love the feel of the earth in their hands and in between their tiny toes, and under a mother’s watchful eye, not even the smallest stone will make its way into baby’s mouth.
- Most importantly: Modify your gardening objectives. Accept and embrace the fact that gardening with a baby is less about being productive in the garden and more about surrounding your baby with the beauty that is the earth and the green life that shoots from its soil. When you share your garden with your baby, your baby will begin to understand that the earth is alive, capturing that feeling of the energy of the earth and of each tiny seed that pushes upward to become a plant, so full of life. Does a better education than this even exist?
Gardening with your baby is much more than just gardening. It’s a way to share a love for nature and the vast amount of life that exists in nature. This experience awaits you and your baby, whether it’s in a small container garden on your balcony, an array of raised beds and fruit trees, or even a local farm or nearby park. You and your baby will both feel more invigorated…more alive…and more love.