2. Plan your project in small stages
When you have one stage done, head off to spend some fully engaged play time with your toddler and then lead them into another activity that they can do on their own…I found a new use for an old bird cage stand and the girls kept themselves busy tossing small and big balls through the circle for quite awhile….back to the next stage of the project!
3. Involve toddlers in mini ‘Helping' projects while you are working…..
The girls love to watch Daddy digging and they love to help so i will often see them digging up rocks or weeding just like Daddy does. As adults we can easily forget how much toddlers see and then mimic sometimes!
Here i asked Ruby to collect some sand for the new path and Tara to dig up some small rocks for the path…you would be surprised at how long these small tasks can keep them busy if you are also working hard by their side!
5. Let them get dirty…and don't stress about it!
Forget the shopping shoes and best clothes….have a stash of outdoor play clothes and some little gumboots for working in the mud and on uneven surfaces! Let them explore and sit in the dirt if they want to. Let them dig and run and fall over, let them wipe their muddy hands on their shirt…..let them know that it's ok to get dirty when playing outside…..they will let themselves have so much more fun if you do!
Let them see you get dirty too but also model washing of hands before eating or wiping sand and dirt off feet before going inside. My girls know that they must take their boots off before coming inside and their good shoes don't come out to play in the red dirt! Boundaries are still in place (I'm no saint!)…but there is also freedom!
Ruby is having fun ‘planting' small rocks to grow here which is sweet…but what i loved about witnessing this moment is that i noticed she didn't want to constantly wash her hands for a change…she was too engrossed in her important ‘work'!
7. Turn ‘helping' into a Game….
There will come a time in the day when they just want to do exactly what you are doing…and at this time you will become frustrated because you were SO nearly finished with your next mini stage!
Turn the frustration into a game to help distract them a little. Here we had the side boulders in place and we had purposely used fairly flat ones so that they could be used as stepping stones as well. So i began a game of walking down the boulders so Daddy could get the weed mat and sand ready.
We then had races to see who could rake up the most rocks while Daddy raked the path to an even level with his own rake. Notice the lack of pictures here…I was too busy keeping them diverted! Which brings me to my next tip….
8. Accept that one of you will be the main worker while one gets to do the boring toilet & food runs!
This has been really hard for me to accept….I love to work alongside His Patient self landscaping and we used to spend whole weekends from dawn to dusk getting jobs done together.
Unfortunately with toddlers, that doesn't work and since I don't have the muscle power of Daddy he is often the one who can keep working while i have to change the wet pants and go inside to get snacks and break up arguments….sometimes i get resentful and also guilty because he is left to do the majority of the work but accepting what works and what doesn't is part of the key to landscaping with toddlers!
It does also mean though that sometimes i get to sneak off for my own toilet break (a rare treat as parents of toddlers will know!) while the girls continue to be ever so helpful to Daddy! Here they were helping to spread out the weed mat and add a thin layer of sand (I am beginning to grow weary of red rocks and sand just between you and me!).