Chores with a Toddler

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When our third child was born, I was determined to get back to my normal routine of caring for animals and gardening as soon as I could.  Being outside is my happy place.  I was able to get my chores and gardening done with my baby by babywearing.  I wore my baby every day for the first 2 years of her life.  When she was about 2 1/2 years old, I stopped wearing her on my back daily. My little adventurer wanted to explore and didn’t want to always be stuck on mama’s back. When I did put her on my back, she felt very heavy and would throw her weight around which would sometimes throw me off balance.  Sadly, I had to admit that my baby wearing days were over. 
This new phase of life definitely put a wrinkle in being active outside on the farm, but I was determined to continue to be outside, caring for the animals and tending the garden.  Plus, I really, REALLY want my little girl to love the farm.  She is so interested in everything that is going on around her, the animals, the vegetables and flowers, I don’t want to squash that. 

How can you get farm chores and gardening done with an active toddler?

Get your toddler involved

Since my toddler loves to help and wants to go everywhere with me and do everything that I do, why not get her involved?  She loves to help with feeding and watering animals, collecting eggs, milking goats and digging in the dirt.  If something needs to be done outside, she is ready to go!  My toddler likes to have a job that she can do all by herself.  Yes, she slows me down and it takes a little longer to get the task done, but she takes pride in feeding the cats and rabbits and is learning so much.  As time goes on, I’ll add age appropriate tasks to her list of “chores”.  When you love to do something, is chore really the appropriate word?


Have a safe area in the barn where they can play

Even though my little girl would beg to differ, there are some jobs where it simply isn’t safe to have a toddler running around.  If it’s a quick job, like delivering a bale to the goats, I have a safe area in the barn where she can play.  A place where she can’t get hurt or get into anything; the milking stall in our barn works well.  There are usually a few cats to keep her entertained for a couple of minutes.  Once I get the bale delivered, we continue on with our chores.


Nap time and baby monitor

I try to utilize nap time as much as I possibly can.  This is the time that I get the tasks done that are easier and safer to do without my little sidekick.  My dairy goats are very tame, but hoof trimming can be interesting.  This is a task best done by myself.   Gardening can be done with a toddler, but sometimes it’s nice to focus on the task at hand without any distractions.  Since nap time varies in length these days, a baby monitor helps you know when nap time is done. 


Toys in the garden

I spend a lot of time tending the garden in the summer.  A pile of dirt and a plastic spoon will keep my toddler busy for hours some days, and for a few minutes on others.  In order to feel like I have accomplished something, I provide a couple of places for my busy girl to play.  A kiddie pool is perfect for a hot day, she can splash all she wants.  We also have an old play kitchen that has been demoted to the garden to be used as a mud kitchen.  It is equipped with plastic containers for mud pies, water, sticks or whatever is required for the recipe of the day.  Our 9 year old usually joins her; who can resist water and mud?   The kiddie pool and mud kitchen can be moved around in the garden so I can keep an eye on her and get some work done at the same time.  


Older Siblings

Older siblings are the best.  There is a 6 year age gap between child #2 and #3, which is very handy at times.  When the weather is less than desirable, my older children can watch their little sister while I run down to the barn to feed the animals or close the barn up for the night.  I try not to use them as built in babysitters and keep my time out doing chores short. Other times the older kids will watch their little sister down at the barn while I’m caring for animals. They keep her busy collecting rocks or finding tadpoles.  My older children feel like they have an important job (they do), and I can hear them playing and know that they are safe.
Life with a toddler is ever changing and what works now might not work next month.  This is what has consistently worked for us as we keep our farm running smoothly.  How do you get farm chores done with your toddler? 

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