Skip to main content

Gardening Therapy for Toddlers

I'm struggling to believe that Spring is actually here.  It's felt like the longest, harshest winter.  We've had three rounds of snow, school closures and cancelled trains.  Every virus, cough and pox has swept through the town, taking us down as their victims.  Currently overcoming chicken pox, our children have felt pretty miserable, but have shown us moments of how to have fun in the midst of discomfort, "I'm doing the itch-dance", says our three year old while the younger dives off the sofa.  Now into our second week of quarantine, we've exhausted every jigsaw and colouring book; we've finished watching every Paw Patrol episode and strayed into the dark land of afternoon repeats of CBeebies; we've baked cakes, biscuits and bread.  But better than all of this, as the days gradually lengthen? We planted some seeds.
In an emotionally-intense chicken pox fog, my two tots and I gardened our way to recovery.  In a pre-pox bustle of activity, we'd bought seed packets from the local supermarket, saved old yogurt pots for plant pots and hauled a bag compost back from the shop in the bottom basket of the buggy.  The boys had chosen sunflowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin and courgettes.  A bit surprising as neither of them eat the latter. Like all little children, they had their own unique way of helping.  The older enjoys an imaginary world or pretending to be various animals or dinosaurs, so his participation was peppered with animal sounds and movement, including a swishing stick-tail that sent the seeds and pots flying.  The younger is keen as mustard to get involved, but it takes every ounce of my patience to keep smiling when newly planted seeds are suddenly dug again, or seedlings swamped in water.
Both helped with filling pots with compost, sowing seeds and watering.  The best seeds for little hands were the big sunflower seeds, cucumbers and even bigger pumpkin seeds.  In retrospect, I should have just sown the tomato plants myself.  The seeds are absolutely tiny.  Minuscule.  Microscopic.  My enthusiastic little helpers flung several seeds across the trays.  I tried to redistribute, but with damp compost everywhere, I had no idea how many, if any, were in each pot.
Next, the watering.  For my 22 month old, there's no activity more wonderful, more fun-filled, more brilliant, than holding a filled small watering can.  The power, the freedom, the responsibility. I love to try and nurture this enthusiasm.  I really do, but it took saintly tolerance to calmly redirect the water spray to avoid drowning the tiny seeds.  Calls for "more more" water had to be directed to the ivy.
After an hour of 'gardening', I was exhausted.  The littlest one was still earnestly watering the ivy while my older helper was busily acting out a scene between a triceratops and an anaconda.  Their mood had changed from irritable to lively in one short activity.  They both seemed genuinely proud to have helped with such important work.  They were both covered in soil, water and smiling. Despite testing my patience to the brink, I couldn't help but feel happy, too. Their genuine joy and excitement was infectious.
The next day, they were both disappointed that nothing had grown yet: just boring tubs of dirt.  And the same the following day and the same again after that. Still nothing.  The excitement had gone.
And then, the first shoots appeared.  Sunflowers first.  Little green stems with the seed still attached to its head, like a miniature tree.  The blessed miracle of life, there on our kitchen window sill.  So tiny, so simple, so readily taken for granted, but through the eyes of a toddler, these little seedlings were pure magic.
Every morning, they come downstairs and go straight to see the seeds, charting their gradual progress. New green shoots are a cause for great celebration.  The pots where still nothing seems to grow, receive gentle cajoling, songs and dancing.  Maybe they'll grow tomorrow.
I also find myself rushing to the window sill, sharing in their excitement.  I dream of home-grown veg and fantasise about our children feasting on courgettes.  This is all that is good in life. Goodbye Winter.  Goodbye coughs and colds.  Hello Spring! Hello new life!

Published first on The Huffington Post here.


  1. have a great day.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Last Feed?: Part 2- Night Weaning Begins

Dear Team Night Feed,
I'm writing this particular blog as I was very anxious about this transition and wanted to hear about other parents' experiences, especially mothers who'd chosen to feed their babies and toddlers to sleep, maybe for two years or so, but were interested in gentle night weaning. I can't believe we made it this far, especially after writing this last summer!  I hope our story helps anyone else in the same position, even though every child/parent/home is unique and different.

There's a background story to our first night of night weaning which you can read here, but in short, little one was 26 months with good communication skills, he'd stopped asking for "mummy milk" during the day and in the morning, and was only waking up once in the night.  He's got a big brother who's almost 4 years old and fully weaned (at 18 months).  I had routinely fed our youngest to sleep for every bedtime, back to sleep after every wake up and unti…

The Last Feed? Part 1

Four months ago, I published an article all about my rejection of the sleep training culture, extolling the virtues of following my baby’s lead, the second time around. The liberation from rules and schedules was the birth of my maternal instinct and true enjoyment of motherhood.

When my eldest was just six months, he slept through the night, 7pm-7am every night. To outsiders, we’d discovered the holy grail of parenthood. Yet there were major cracks under the perfect, unbroken surface of sleep.  To achieve this, I had to leave him to “self soothe”; I rarely witnessed that magical moment of watching him pass from wakefulness to sleep; I had to rouse him if he fell asleep at the breast for fear of “bad sleep associations”, but I didn't dare break out of this, too worried about giving our child "poor sleep habits".  But if you’ve read my other blogs, you know all about this.

When our second boy was born, all those rules went out of the window for both our children, choosin…

New Year's Day: More Fuzz Than Fizz

The first day of 2018- a happily fuzzy sociable sort of a day for us- has concluded with a bright full moon in clear cloudless skies.  Our littlest one and I read books by the light of the moon before settling for a dreamy sleep.  His big brown eyes finally closed as I stroked his head and whispered an echo of our final read: "I love you to the moon, and back" (Guess How Much I Love You, S. McBratney)*.  I then settled our older boy who just needed one more cuddle after the exhilaration of a busy few days.  We then collapsed in an exhausted pile on the sofa.

 I used to feel a particular blurry excitement on New Year's Day: a fresh start with new goals and dreams, after the fizz of the night before.  In 2011/12, my friend Jody and I partied on Mombasa Beach and watched the mighty African sun rise above the Eastern shoreline.  Somewhere amongst that five-thousand strong crowd was another traveller-teacher, on his own Kenyan adventure.  We didn't meet that night.  Inste…