Ever since Prairie Baby was born, we have made an effort to have her be an active participant in our lives. It always makes me sad when I see couples constantly dropping off the kiddos at grandma’s house or the babysitters so they can go out and “enjoy themselves” or work on a project.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the occasional date night, but if we think we must continually separate ourselves from our kids in order to accomplish things, the kiddos will miss out on many valuable life experiences.
Since Day One, Prairie Baby has been a part of our team. Some days I stuck her in a Moby Wrap, or buckled her into my giant jogging stroller as I worked outside. We took her everywhere with us… During her first 6 months of life, she attended multiple cattle brandings, went antelope hunting, hung out at several equestrian clinics, and took many a nap in the cool shade of the barn. She’s experienced more in her few years of life than many city-dwelling adults have seen in a lifetime.
Now that she’s a “big girl” (two years old!), she can take an even more active role in our activities- and she is already comfortable and familiar with our routine, since she’s been along for the ride since the day she was born.
It’s never to early to start sharing your homestead life with the kiddos. Below, you’ll find my list of simple activities for the homestead toddler or preschooler to help inspire you in your journey.
22 Activities for the Country Toddler or Preschooler
1. Teach them to plant things. Larger seeds like peas, beans, or corn are fun to poke into the ground, and items like seed potatoes and onion sets are downright fascinating!
2. Let them water. Prairie Baby loves to hold the hose as we water our trees or fill up water tanks. She makes designs with the water stream and loves the splashing. If your garden is dry, stick a spray nozzle on your hose and let them go crazy. Yep, they’ll be muddy and wet when they’re done, but that’s ok.
3. Pull weeds. You’ll have to be careful when you teach this skill, otherwise you’ll end up with a bare garden from over-enthusiastic little helpers. Better yet, give them a play shovel and let them hack on the weeds with that.
4. Reap the harvest. Digging up potatoes, onions, or beets is a real-life treasure hunt, while pumpkins and squash are fun to select and carry out of the garden. Peas and beans are a blast to pick from the plant- and make sure that you let them “sneak” a few bites so they equate gardening with food. (As long as you maintain a chemical-free garden, a few unwashed, homegrown veggies won’t hurt them…)
5. Fill pots. As you prepare your containers for planting, let them use their toy shovels to fill the pots with soil.
7. Dig in the compost pile. We don’t have a sandbox, so Prairie Baby climbs and digs in our finished compost pile instead. Chat about compost and how it’s food for plants.
8. Allow them to collect eggs (a classic country childhood favorite!) and then place them into the cartons. (A great time to practice counting skills)
9. Show them how to fill the nesting boxes with fresh shavings or straw.
10. Have them carry your bucket of chicken scraps outside to the coop, and then let them go crazy slinging potato peelings and fruit bits for the hens to eat.
12. Have straw or bedding to spread in your pens? Little helpers love this one- show them that they can kick and throw the straw all over. This one is a big hit at our house. 😉
13. Have your kiddo carry and dump any grain or supplements in the animal’s pans (preferrably when the animal is a safe distance away).
14. If you have bottle babies that aren’t overly pushy, let your helper hold onto the bottle as they drink and chat about how people and animals drink milk when they are babies.
15. Sweep out the barn or coop together.
16. Invite your kiddo to hand you laundry to hang on your clothesline or drying rack.
17. Give them their own lump of bread dough to knead/smash/squish.
18. Get them a mini-rolling pin to help make tortillas.
19. Snap beans and shell peas-allow snacking to give them a taste of food fresh from the garden.
20. Shuck corn.
21. Let them scoop, dump, and mix ingredients in your recipes.
22. The most important part? Let them get dirty, and muddy, and dusty, and covered in bits of hay if they want. Don’t freak out when they sneak a taste of dirt, or grass, or hay, or alfalfa pellets, or even goat poop. It won’t kill them, and I truly believe it’s good for their immune system. (Prairie Baby has never been to the doctor for an illness or had an ear infection…Ever.)
Praise them as they help, even when they accidentally spill something or spray water in the wrong place. Show them that “work” is enjoyable, not punishment. Show them they are a valuable part of the team and you genuinely like having them around.
(Now, before anyone yells at me- NO, I’m not assigning “chores” to my two year old. She doesn’t do these every day, nor does she get in trouble when she isn’t in the mood to collect eggs or pick beans. These are simply learning experiences for her to partake in as she grows- and I have to say- she loves it. All I have to do is say the word “outside” and she starts squealing and running to get her mini-rubber boots. When she is older, she will have “assigned” duties– but not now. She is too young for that now.)
So, I encourage you this week to include your children or grandchildren in your homestead activities. Embrace the imperfection and the mess, and enjoy those little helpers!
This is in no way a comprehensive list– what ideas can you add? Share them in the comments!