Gardening (and Crafts) with a Toddler 101


I tend to be a controller – a very controlling controller. I make lists and I plan out contingency plans A, B and C for nearly every aspect of my life. When it comes to my love of gardening, it’s no different.

I like to think about what I want in my garden and whether we’ll start seeds indoors or sow outdoors after the last frost. I like to wander through local nurseries and garden centers before making final decisions. But, my life circumstances don’t allow for that anymore. Why? I have a toddler.

Last spring, I was able to place baby girl in her pack-and-play and keep her in the shade while I dirtied my gloves and talked to her about the butterflies that would soon be visiting. This spring, I have had to take a different approach to gardening.  Whether you’re an avid gardener trying to find ways to incorporate your young ones into your hobby or just looking for ways to appreciate what I hope is a gorgeous spring, here are some tips I’ve already picked up just a few weeks into spring.

Allow Them To Help
Did I mention that I’m a controller? Did I also mention that I don’t like messes even if they’re outside and can be washed away? So, when it came to preparing our little herb garden, I had to remind myself that I would be a lot less stressed or anxious if I simply allowed my girl to help without expecting much.

We opened up our herb kit and let her help as much as she wanted.  We let her play with the soil and and then we let her pour the water. She simply beamed with delight that she was helping us.  Her smile was absolutely worth the breathing techniques I had to implement as I watched her dip her hands in the watering can.

Give Them Their Own Space
I have a 4’x6′ raised garden that will be used for both plants that pollinators enjoy and veggies. My girl will have a similar 12″x12″ raised bed that we’ll sprinkle with some wildflowers and allow her to play in while I’m working on my bed.  It may simply become a mud box, but she will have her own mini-shovel and watering can and she can care for her garden any way she chooses.  By doing this, I’m setting a physical boundary (I hope) between my precious plants and her own space. 

Stop & Smell the Flowers
Shortly after our backyard daffodils started blooming, I got the itch to start picking them.  I waited for the perfect day that never came (we ended up getting outside on a cloudy and semi-rainy day) and we put on our gloves and started picking daffodils.  Needless to say, it took nearly an hour to gather enough heads for one mason jar for our table.  I quit after that hour. But, watching my girl slowly take the flowers I handed her and move from plant to plant all around our yard while becoming distracted by the “chirp chirps” in the trees and the mud on her boots gave me some of my new favorite memories. 

Don’t Want to Get Dirty? Stay Inside.
If gardening isn’t your favorite or you’re limited on space, here are some other ideas:

  • Sensory Bins: Make a stop at your local dollar store and purchase a bin, some rocks, sand, artificial flowers, small insect toys or anything else garden related. Once you put everything in the bin, let your toddler get to exploring. 


  • Dough Insects & Flowers: If you have some bright colored play dough on your hands, go ahead and create different flowers and insects with your toddler. You can go over shapes and colors – a red ball with black circles is a lady bug or a butterfly with heart-shaped purple wings.
  • Flower Craft: Gather up some construction and tissue paper and paper plates for a simple flower craft. The plate is the center of your flower and the tissue paper can become your leaves while the construction paper is your stem.  You can even create some “pollen” with finger paint on the plate.


  • Pinterest has tons of ideas, so get to searching and you’ll be sure to find more.


It’s spring and after a harsh winter, we all deserve to enjoy the sunshine on our faces and the blooming flowers and singing birds that come with spring. Gardening won’t be easy with a little one, but I promise you that stopping to smell the flowers (or busting out the craft supplies) really is worth it.