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.
6. Make newspaper seedling pots together.
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.
11. Allow them to be present if you have dairy animals to milk. Talk about where milk comes from and allow them to touch the udder and even apply udder salve, if they wish.
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!
Our twins are six, a big boy and girl now, but they’ve been a part of our adventure since birth. They’ve participated in chicken slaughter (and all the raising and feeding and such that leads to it), planting, harvesting, weeding, caring for the garden and animals and humans. They have their own veggie garden this year, an 8×3 ft square foot garden in which they’re growing a wide range of yumminess. The beans are just coming up and they’re so excited! They also help with most of the cooking around here, and at six they DO have chores such as setting and clearing the table, and tidying the “family room” (ie the kid area). 🙂
Love it! Way to go- sounds like they are awesome helpers!
They are! I just don’t let the boy weed. He has a propensity for just yanking everything out. His sister now… she’s a total little farmer. LOL… Our boy is more interested in helping split wood (we heat with wood and do all our splitting by hand). He manhandles huge logs using levers and such of his own devising. Intelligent little snot. 🙂 They both are. Perhaps because we’ve treated them like… GASP *people* since they were born.
My daughter (2) likes to “drive” the pickup when my husband is tossing bales of hay off of it.
My son (3) likes to hold tools (Pliers, hammer, etc.) or even “use” them.
My children always end up cracking the eggs in their over-exuberance to get them.
This is a great list. I do find that things like this are much more difficult because we have three soon to be four three and under. It’s a lot easier to control one child than it is a bunch. For example, it takes us at least ten minutes just to get everyone’s socks, shoes, and hats on just to go outside.
Oh yes, I’m sure it is more challenging with multiple kiddos instead of just one! But, the pay-off in the end is worth. 🙂 And even though I just have one to get ready when we go outside, it seems that ALL I do all day is take her botos and coat on and off, lol!
We gave up on socks and shoes. They have rubber boots and if we need to garden,they just jam them on without socks. Or come barefoot. I don’t care. But we’re also in a suburban area and are square foot gardening now, rather than doing the big farming. Then again, even when we WERE doing “big” farming they ran around barefoot most of the time. LOL…
But yeah, two is way harder than one. I have one that’s almost 18 now, lives far away from me unfortunately, but she was a breeze to raise. These two, holy cow. They work together to stymie adults.
RevAllyson, I LOVE your rubber boots idea! Fantastic! With our 2 preschoolers, plus new baby, it seems to take us about a week to get out of the house, too! But so worth it.
I would die without rubber boots. I have my own, the kids have their own. I expect help when I do things, but we don’t ignore their preferences. Our boy prefers to do manual work – hauling logs, working with daddy, moving boxes, fetching bricks… and our girl likes gardening, cleaning, cooking. They’re both required to know how to do both, but frankly as long as stuff gets done I don’t care too much. I do force them to do chores and I could care less what “the neighbors” think… though we live in an area where most everyone acts like us, so it isn’t a big problem.
The latest activity is capturing toads and frogs. There are a zillion on our property. So we have a little habitat set up on the porch, and they are allowed to keep their “pet” for 2 days then it has to be released again. I’m going to be getting an actual aquarium which I’ll set up for amphibians. They’re bound to catch salamanders or snakes soon and the box I had the frogs in won’t do for that. LOL
She is SO cute!!
I love this list! We have done most of this with our youngest (now3) since she was born. Our oldest, (now 11) had lived in the country but we didn’t have our homestead until he was almost 11. We work hard everyday and enjoy the fruits of our labors. We work in the gardens, tend to the chickens/horses/cow/pigs/dairy cow/dogs and cats – as a family. It’s amazing how many of our oldest friends love to come to our farm and stay for DAYS! They find it so fascinating that we grow all our own food and make everything from scratch. They even find it fun that we do school work at our dining room table for a few hours everyday. We also have treated our munchkins as people since birth – much to the dismay of many family members! We use reasoning, logic and if need be time outs, but we’ve never had any issues with their behaviors. We have been very fortunate that I have been a SAHM since the birth of our oldest. I can’t tell you how important it is to keep the little people involved in every aspect of adult life. Our oldest is now using our budget as part of his math curriculm. Thank you for lending another great article to our favorite little people!
I love this post! We have a 20-month old who loves to help out around our place. (Can’t exactly call it a farm or a homestead just yet ’cause all we have are chickens and a garden.)
We have incorporated several of the things you list but there are others that I think we’ll start like dumping ingredients for recipes.
If we had a goat i know our little guy would be awesome at bottle feeding since he currently tries to “feed’ our dogs with his sippy cup. 🙂
Carol Ann says
Reminds me of my childhood when we used to visit relatives on farms (in Wisconsin), being told off for eating too many of the peas I was shucking and eating baby carrots from our garden. They were like sweets to me and irresistable! She is so cute and very lucky to be raised this way! Last week I had a meal with one of my daughters and family, they live in town but the meal included lettuces and radishes from my 11 year old grandson’s veg patch. Am looking forward to the 13 year old grandson’s chille peppers. These are projects they have chosen themselves not chores. Keep up the good work, It’s great to see!
I love this! We try to include our kids as much as possible, but sometimes it just isn’t safe to have them helping (we had grandma watch the kids outside while we were working cattle, and sometimes we can’t take them in the tractors since there are no buddy seats and we need both hands to operate the equipment) so I am glad to see your list of helper activities. 🙂 We are having our first garden this year, so I’m excited to see how they help with that. My daughter (2-1/2)already loves helping with dishes and baking, now she makes “pretend” cherry pies out of her blankets. And she loves handing tools to daddy and helping fix (bang on) things. lol Our son is only a year old, but is already starting to help out. It makes life so much easier and everyone is happier when we’re all working together.
Melissa K. Norris says
Great list, Jill. My Mountain Babies enjoy planting the garden as well. They are excellent bean snappers when it comes canning time. I line up the jars on the table and they help snap and fill them up.
My three-year-old likes to help carry the kindling in during fire season. She’s quite proud of this.
My seven-year-old enjoys helping us prune. Something about those long blades….(always under supervision of course)
I believe their favorite thing is picking (eating) the blueberries and raspberries though.
Growing up on my grandparent’s farm, some of my fondest memories are of simply living. Helping my Grandma shell beans under the shade trees in the front yard; shucking and canning corn; riding in the truck with my Grandma as the men hauled in hay; getting greased up and picking wild blackberries. There was rarely a time when I was not included and encouraged to help in whatever capacity that I could.
Though we don’t farm, my own children will always be included in “life.”
I think Annie wants to come play at your house. LOL 🙂
Send her on over! 🙂
We live on a farm in North Dakota and I have had my daughter help me a lot of the times. A city girl relative was horrified that I would even suggest that my nearly 5 year old help me with easy chores like you suggested and acted as though I was abusing my daughter LOL With her at her age I do make her do some chores even if she doesn’t want to but the rest is optional.
Michelle smith says
Love it. Our kids might put up an argument occasionally about being booted outside but never complain when they are out and about. Even if it’s collecting eggs, shoveling horse pop or helping (raiding) in the vege patch. A great reminder to allow them to get their hands dirty even if sometimes things get dropped or wet. Thanks
I don’t have preschooler yet but I think this is one of the games and activities which are perfect for them.. Thank you!
What a great list!! And Prairie Baby is getting so big. It sounds like she’s a great helper. I LOVE the photo of her hugging the newborn goat.
I wonder if my canine kiddos could be recruited into chores. Hmm… 😉
Lol- my dogs love to “help”… although they are incredibly talented at getting in the way!
Wonderful activities for little farm girls and boys! Our daughter of 21 months loves to head off to the garden and eat the green onion tips – the young flower buds from them too! Farm life and “work” is a beautiful thing.
I really liked your list. Farm kids/Homestead kids learn all of this from an early age and will play along with you as you work. It is good training and they learn a lot of skills.
I totally agree about having kids help out with the work around the house. I think it teaches them valuable life skills and lets them get dirty and have some fun. Thanks for sharing these great ideas!
There was rarely a time when I was not included and encouraged to help in whatever capacity that I could. Thanks for letting me stopped by.
I really enjoyed this post! I have a 3 year old and a 6 year old. These ideas will come in handy!
I loved this post! My girls 6 & 4 are not allowed to help pick green beans any more, they eat more than goes in the basket! This summer and fall my husband had our 2 year old out at the wood pile with him, carrying the wood and learning to stack it (small pieces of course!). My 4 year old is an expert at folding laundry and my 6 year old loves to help in the garden, while my 2 year old likes to do everything his way! We are planning on getting chickens this spring and I cannot wait to see them interacting with them.
Love it Rebecca! Lucky kiddos you have. 🙂 And yes, mine usually eats more than she picks too. 😉
I love this list! We have our square foot garden that we started in the fall and its really been the most awesome thing to have my two year old out there with me. His eyes light up and it all just seems like less work (it does take longer but more enjoyable than being alone). I got the cutest picture of him watering the garden in his undies. Had I not let him out, I would never have a picture to embarrass my future 21 year old with among other great things of course. We’re learning quite a bit together too. I can’t think of better reasons to have him tag along. Thanks for more suggestions! Keeping this list as my homestead expands!
Well done! I am happy to say I think I have done all of these things! Let children be children and let them experience as many things as possible.
Please be careful of her (and your) lungs around straw & other dust clouds. Lung diseases such as COPD are a real threat to health down the road.
Question about feeding the chickens (which my girls have done as long as we’ve had chickens!): I’ve always been told/read NOT to give chickens potato peels, unless they’ve been cooked. And I generally don’t have time to COOK food for my chickens, so I have always just put them in the compost. 😀 Have you heard that or found it to be an old wives’ tale?