Somehow, I always manage to get myself in a bit over my head with plans – it always sounds like a great idea and completely realistic until it gets down to the actual carrying out of whatever event or project I have gotten myself into. And now that I have two almost three-year olds running around the house, there never is as much time or opportunities to accomplish things as there used to be.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in quite the pickle as a result of this persistent part of my personality.
I had gotten a wonderful idea (and I do not mean this to sound sarcastic, as it really ended up being a great thing) to throw one of my dear friends a surprise baby shower at my house. See, it just so happens that she is also being blessed with twins and I find that to be an amazing, extraordinary coincidence.
Being the planner that I am, I took the day before the event off from work and arranged for my daughters to still be dropped off at the sitter’s that morning per the usual Friday routine. All was well and good until I got the call at 7:30am that my “plan” wasn’t going to work out so well and that the sitter had to tend to her own sick child that day.
Great, I thought. Now I’ve got all of this stuff to prepare and a house to clean amidst the presence of two active, crazy, all-be-it adorable toddlers!
Having little choice in the matter, I decided I would make the best of it, pull up my bootstraps and get down to business. After all, a few more cartoons than normal for one day couldn’t hurt that much, right?
What surprised me, however, was their keen interest in my tasks – it even seemed to win over the cartoons! It wasn’t long before both girls had taken their own paper toweling and had started “dusting” various pieces of furniture. They continued to help as I washed the windows and vacuumed the floor. Soon we found ourselves in the kitchen, each in an apron, baking up a storm. They truly found it fun to help me!
With spring fast-approaching (we hope), my thoughts are obviously turning towards my “outdoor task list”. What will need to be done once the ground thaws? And more importantly, what new things will I plant? Last fall, as I was cleaning up the yard and preparing it for winter, the girls couldn’t get enough of digging in the dirt leftover in the pots which I was emptying of wilting annuals. While yes, they definitely made a bit of a mess on the patio, I was elated that they found this type of “work” so entertaining. I can only image what this growing season will bring now that they are even older and more able to help.
So, I’m curious: do you garden with your children or maybe your grandchildren? Perhaps it’s a boy or girl that lives in your neighborhood who always seems to wander over just as you are setting down your kneeling pad. Whoever it may be, I encourage you to let him or her help. There are so many remarkable benefits — to both you and the child involved — to gardening with little ones! Here are just a few:
- Fresh air does a body good! Encourage your “potential helper” to put down the tablet, computer mouse, or video game controller and head out into the great outdoors. They may grumble and complain at first, but the fresh air will actually make them feel better and give them better sleep at night. Not only will the outdoor air make them feel better and more rested, but it has actually been shown to help reduce stress levels, resulting in more success at school and fewer ADHD symptoms. As most of us also know by now, sunlight is an incredible trigger to the skin for producing Vitamin D which is proving itself time and time again to be a potent cancer fighter (see the article on the Prevention Magazine website here).
- Teach children the importance of protecting and nurturing the environment! The more time kids spend outdoors, the greater appreciation they will have for their surroundings. Watching a plant grow bigger, better, and stronger as a result of hard work can be an incredible motivator! Perhaps the child in your life has never even really thought about where the fresh fruits or vegetables come from which appear on the dinner table each night. Think of how rewarding it would be for him or her to bite into a tomato which he or she helped to grow! By pointing out the wonders of the growing world around them, you may just help to instill in them a strong respect for the environment and a desire to help protect it.
- Working side-by-side can be an incredible “accidental” bonding experience! Are you looking for the right time to bring up that “touchy” subject with your middle school-er? Rather than sitting them down and saying you need to talk, how about suggesting an activity you can both get involved in and letting the conversation come about naturally? A shared, enjoyable task (such as planting seeds, bulbs, or plants) can be a great distraction to the issue being discussed and can actually create a more comfortable, less threatening environment for a child to share thoughts and ideas.
One tip: when choosing which plants to grow with your young gardener(s), be sure and pick something fairly easy, without a lot of fuss. This will help the child see big results in a relatively short amount of time and keep him or her excited about the project. Some simple yet fun suggestions would include: tomatoes, beans, watermelon, strawberries, pumpkins, and cucumbers. Check out some of these premade kids collections by Chef Jeff here and here! Also, if they have a favorite fruit or vegetable, consider planting that in your garden this year — growing brussel sprouts might not be that exciting if the child abhors the taste.
I really am looking forward to getting out in the yard this spring and summer with my girls. Yes, it will mean more dirty laundry and probably a decent amount of scrubbing under the fingernails. But with all of these fantastic benefits, who could argue against it? I can only hope that the increased amount of time spent outdoors will result in an indoors that stays cleaner just a bit longer than usual… 😉
With hands in the dirt and head in the clouds,