I can feel it. This is THE YEAR. The year my garden actually feeds us, at least a little bit. A successful garden does require a bit of time and effort, I have a lot of effort but not so much time these days.
The biggest distraction is my two little monsters. Last year I couldn’t work for more than 10 minutes without at least one child sitting on me. Luckily they’re both pretty independent at this point so with enough distractions I can take them out in the garden with me and get some work done.
My kids are 2 and 4 and oddly rational, especially the oldest. I live in a rural area, we know our neighbors (not that they’re that close to us anyway) and we have a 5 acre property. We also have angry geese, guinea fowl and a dog, if something shows up I know it.
They have lots of freedom outside to explore and play. Both girls know they need to stay behind the house and to stay out of the disgusting goose pool. I like to offer them lots of options to keep themselves entertained and learning and exploring. I also have lots of room for all this stuff.
And I’m never that far away. When I’m in the vegetable garden they’re in the fenced area with me and when I’m in the barn or the herb garden they’re usually in the backyard or on the deck. I’m also very tech-weary. When we’re outside I especially like to keep things old school.
If you take nothing else from this, get your kids rain boots. Puddles are the best thing we have going and rain boots make it so much easier to enjoy them (as a kid and as a mom). I love the cow boots Mary had, she wore them until they fell apart and I haven’t seen them since.
Rain boots also come in really handy if your kids like to help you in the barn or chicken coop. Nothing cleans off easier than rubber boots! It’s the same reason I live in my Muck Boots (when I’m not barefoot).
This should surprise no one. You need some bubbles. I don’t think anything in this world can make me as happy as bubbles make my kids. I love the no spill bubble bucket but anything works.
If you have little kids and you haven’t introduced them to bubbles yet make sure you have the camera ready when you do. The coordination just isn’t there and it’s hilarious. Almost as funny as watching a group of little kids do jumping jacks.
If you want to go the DIY route you should check out this tutorial for a DIY Bubble Blower or try your hand at making Giant Bubbles.
Travel in Style
One of our most loved outdoor toys is our red wagon. I was gifted the wagon at my baby shower for Mary from a family I grew up with.
Mary likes to pile it up with stuffed animals and her sister and pulls them all over the lawn. It’s also our vehicle of choice for visiting the neighbors.
Play in the Sand
I spent most of my childhood summers playing in my fort and making amazing dishes out of mud. We’re not quite to that point yet but I’m sure that’s coming soon. Instead we stick to sand for the most part.
The first thing I put in the garden for the kids was the Turtle Sandbox. When I was a kid the turtle sandbox was my life. I spent hours in it. They have legit sand toys but also a rag tag collection of cups, spoons and paintbrushes.
Both kids like it but this is really Kat’s happy place. That kid will sift sand for a good 20 minutes without looking up. Anyone with a 2 year old knows how strange that it, especially for a non-destructive activity.
If you’re looking to DIY a sandbox I love this brightly colored DIY Wooden Sandbox and this Side by Side Sand & Gravel Pit idea.
Build a Fort
The sandbox currently sits inside the Cattle Panel Playhouse, this year it’s home to some slow growing gourds. I’m hoping they’ll start taking off pretty soon but for now they aren’t offering much in the way of shade.
Last year it was the home to some very happy pole beans and as extra benefit my kids ate their weight in fresh beans everyday!
The cattle panel house would also be great for a little table and chairs. The girls each have a small plastic lawn chair that stays out in the garden with their fancy playhouse.
Kat likes to sit in hers and contemplate life, or whatever toddlers think about. Knowing her it’s how to avoid eating broccoli while still getting a Popsicle after dinner.
Play in the Dirt
Earlier this summer I picked an adorable set of garden tools for teach of the girls as an Easter gift. I grabbed mine at Aldi’s but this set of garden tools comes with a bag and a watering can and it’s very similar.
My entire garden is raised beds and I have one area set aside for them to plant but it’s basically sandbox 2.0 😉 The gardening tools are also put to good use in the sandbox.
Both girls get the most use out of the watering cans. ANY excuse to soak themselves is a win. I have a large livestock tub for water for the alpacas and I use it to fill my watering cans for the garden.
I fill mine, they fill theirs and we trek to whatever needs the H2O. They usually spill most of the water before we get to the garden but they still have fun.
Earlier this summer I spotted something else to help entertain my kids this summer. I picked up a Water Play Table for less than $40. I love it 20ox more than I ever loved the kiddie pool.
I’m not comfortable leaving them alone in even 6 inches of water at this point so it didn’t help free up any garden time. And the never ending struggle to keep the ducks and geese out.. It just wasn’t worth it.
With the water table I can fill it up when I fill up the water tubs and they can’t get enough. It’s big enough for two or three kids to play with. As a bonus there’s a table between them so much less arguing and pushing.
It has a handy drain plug, much easier than trying to tip over a kiddie pool! It also came with a few ducks, a frog and a scoop. Hands down the favorite activity is flipping the frog from the lily pad into the water.
If you don’t want to buy something you can keep the kids just as happy with a plain old bucket of water. My grandma Mary always gave up yogurt tubs and KFC cups to play with in the bath and I turned out fine 😉
You could also make a DIY Water Wall to keep your kids entertained, I know I’d like to play with it too!
Swing Set & Playground
The last thing is also the most expensive and the biggest investment by far. This year I bought a Lifetime Swing Set for the girls. The back right quarter of my garden is shaded by two large poplar trees, the only things growing there are the currant bushes on the fence line.
Quick side note, plant kid-friendly fruits in near the play areas. They won’t bug you every 20 seconds for a snack and it’s healthier than fruit snacks!
The swing set I picked ended up costing a little bit more than the wooden versions but it’s going to last forever. I know myself, I will never stain a wooden swing set with any regularity.
If you order a swing set from Amazon it comes via freight delivery. You set up a shipping date when you check out and then when that date approaches you’ll get a phone call from the freight company.
Yes. You need to talk on the phone. But it’s better than trying to fit three giant boxes in you car! There were a few tricky things to putting this swing set together but we managed just fine.
You will definitely need two people and a ladder. They recommend using wrenches but do yourself a favor and get a ratchet set. For the time being I’ve left the metal ladder off the swing set. I think Kat looks cute with teeth and I’d like to keep it that way
Last year for Christmas Mary got an awesome pod swing. We never found a good place for it in the house but they have a lot of fun with it in the garden. Even Kat can climb in and out on her own.
That mess in the back? That’s the swing set in mid-set up. It stayed like that for a while…. We had a heat wave and I don’t go out in 99+ degree weather unless I absolutely have to.
All of the things I’ve mentioned are things that have acquired over the years, this list isn’t meant to be bragging or showing off. A lot of the stuff on this list was gifts from my family. My mom and grandma are very good about asking me what my kids need and want for holidays instead of just buying them more toys
they don’t need.
My kids love playing outside, either with these toys or just chasing the dog trying to get him to play fetch (he doesn’t understand that they need the ball in order to throw it). I have a lot more time to weed my garden now and they want to be outside getting fresh air and exercise.
And I don’t have to listen to the Frozen soundtrack.
Really it’s a win for everyone.
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