Gardening with your toddler allows them to learn, explore, and enjoy the outdoors. If you will be planting or tending to a garden during these next few months then this guide will help you to encourage development in all areas while you plant so that your toddler will grow as well!
This guide is broken up into the different areas of development so that you can easily navigate and target any area you would like to focus on. Many of the activities work on multiple areas of development…so get growing!
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motor skills toddlers gain from gardening
Picking Up Seeds
Have your little one help you plant the seeds by picking them up either off of your hand or out of the bag. This requires a lot of coordination and will help your little one practice refining their fine motor movements.
Depending on how big your garden is your little one will get lots of repeated practice by helping pick up the seeds and put them in the garden. If your toddler is still at the point where they are putting everything in their mouths, then have them plant a cheerio instead (let me know what grows from your “cheerio seed” as I have yet to try that!)
Grasping weeds and pulling them out takes a lot of strength! Show your little one which plants are ok to “pick” and have them help you with the joys of weeding. Be careful though, there is a chance your little one may over generalize this skill and try picking plants they are not suppose to. Make sure they understand which ones they are suppose to pick before you have them start.
Have them use a small plastic shovel (like this) to move dirt from the ground to a bucket. This provides another way for your toddle to practice controlling their movements to complete a task. Scooping up dirt and turning the shovel over requires lots of focus and practice.
Balance and Coordination
The garden is a wonderful place to work on gross motor movements as well! The ground is much different than the inside your house and will provide them with a unique surface to continue to gain coordination while walking. Squatting down to pick weeds also requires a little one lots of balance in order to complete the task. Encourage your little gardener to step over small plants or holes in order to refine large motor skills even more.
language skills toddlers gain from gardening
Label the plants, seeds, tools, and everything else that you may see while tending to a garden. Chances are your toddler has been inside all winter and has never seen many of these objects and hearing the names for the first time.
Give your little one simple directions to follow while out in the garden. Ask them to bring you the tomato seeds and see if your little one is able to pick out the right packet and bring them to you.
Cognition skills toddlers gain from gardening
Have your toddler imitate what you are doing while planting the seeds or shoveling dirt. Learning to imitate requires a child to watch and then repeat what you are doing which is a very complex process. Imitation is needed to be able to learn new skills across all areas of development.
Seed packets provide a perfect way to hone in early literacy skills while outside. Let them look at the different packets and talk about what you see in the pictures. This is also a great pre-teaching activity before you head outdoors!
Reading a story to your toddler about gardening before is another great way to boost early literacy skills while letting them know what to expect (this is one of my favorites.)
Self Help skills toddlers gain from gardening
A perfect way to end the activity is with some hand washing! This is a skill that needs to be taught just like any other and this is a perfect opportunity after digging in the dirt. Start by giving your little one some soap and gently helping them scrub their hands together. As they become more independent in this routine you can fade the help you are giving them. Singing a short song during hand washing is recommended so that they know how long they should keep scrubbing in order to get rid of the germs.
Social EMotional skills toddlers gain from gardening
Playing outside can be so much fun that toddlers often times do not want to come back inside and a temper tantrum occurs. To avoid the tantrum give your child “cues” that garden time is ending soon by telling them before the transition occurs.
Depending on your child you may need to give multiple reminders before planning to head inside. Having them pick up the gardening supplies and help you put away things can help establish an end to the routine. Having your child say “bye” to things outside can also help ease the transition and make them feel more aware that the outdoor fun is ending. If they are still struggling to go inside try to think of something that will motivate them to come in. Maybe they can have a certain book or toy that they love once indoor
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