How to get Baby helping you in the garden - another not-a-Mommy-blogger post

It's many years since I was a full-time Mummy - so many years, in fact, that my garden was just the little piece of grass outside the cave where I sat knitting nappies out of dried pondweed while watching out for marauding wildebeest.

But my babies loved playing outside, just like your modern babies.  And now that the weather (at least, here in the UK) is cheering up, you too will be thinking about letting Baby out into the garden.  So, here are some suggestions for ways in which Baby could a) learn valuable things about Nature and b) help you out with those pesky garden jobs, both at the same time!

1. Dealing with garden pests.  How annoying it is for any gardener to find blackfly or bugs or little snails and caterpillars on those nice new spring leaves.  But, with all your energies taken up with looking after Baby, and with eco-friendly methods in mind, which parent has time to pluck the pests off one by one?

There's a simple solution.  Baby needs every chance to practise his fine motor skills.  So, teaching him how to pick off little bugs from leaves  will prove a really beneficial learning opportunity.  It wouldn't be kind just to expect him to know what to do straight away, obviously.  So you could practise indoors by getting him to pick fleas off your cat, or, if you don't have a cat, or inconveniently you have a flea-free one, extracting poppy seeds off the top of a bread roll will do just fine.

How, though, to make sure that those bugs are permanently dealt with and don't come back?  Well, what about just cutting back on Baby's diet for a few days before going out into the garden, and then encouraging him to pop those pesky pests into his little mouth each time he finds one?  They won't all taste wonderful, but then, you're trying to get Baby to eat cabbage and sprouts, are you not, and are blackfly really any worse from a baby's point of view?  Babies should be encouraged to explore new tastes and textures, and here's yet another chance for him to do so.

While Baby is crawling round the garden, picking off the bugs, do make sure he's wearing thick padded trousers as you wouldn't want his tender little knees to get grazed.

2. Helping with the grass cutting.  What a chore!  Your lawn mower is one of those old fashioned ones which collects the grass cuttings at the back, but the collector thing is broken, and so all the cuttings just spray all over the garden while you're mowing.  How irritating!

What a good thing that Baby has just learned to say Mama and Dadda and therefore has his mouth open a lot of the time.  Talk about good timing!

While you're mowing the lawn, encourage Baby to crawl along behind you.  He probably will anyway because he wants to be with you (how handy are attachment needs?) and the bigger your garden is, the more lawn you have to mow, and the more Baby will desire your company.  Just keep saying, 'Go on, say Mama again!' and, as Baby obliges, mow a bit more.  The grass cuttings should land in his open mouth and he can chew away on those to his heart's content, getting what should be a year's supply of vitamins, surely.  This is actually great practice for those days when all you have to feed him with is leftover spinach, and there's always the added advantage that what arrives in his nappies can go straight onto the compost pile to mulch down with your apple peelings.

The other great thing about this is that, when Baby gets fed up with saying 'Mama' and 'Dadda' on demand, he will cry.  Bingo! Wider mouth = faster lawn-mowing.

But please make sure you clean Baby's teeth well each evening after his grass-collecting duties.  You don't want his winning smile to be marred by bits of green between his nice new gnashers, especially if Granny's coming round.

3.  Digging over the soil.  Such a back-breaking job when you have to do it from a few feet up with a spade.  So, why not harness the fact that Baby is so much nearer the ground?  The best way to go about this is, while Baby is napping, bury all his toys in the flowerbeds where you want the soil turned over.  When he wakes up and wants his teddy/toy truck/bricks, lead him out into the garden.  The secret is to have one of the more colourful toys poking up out of the soil.  Baby will soon get the idea.  It's best not to cut Baby's nails for a few weeks before doing this garden activity with him, because the longer they are, the more efficient will be the soil-turning.

Baby will love this new game and, when he's found all his toys, you can get the garden hose out and wash the bricks and trucks down while hosing down Baby at the same time before he gets back in the house onto your nice cream carpet.  His shouts of delight as you turn the hose on him will make this a moment he will remember for ever.

Obviously, dry him down quickly so he doesn't get cold and you can't be accused of neglect.

Baby had found fourteen thousand blackfly and was feeling rather full, but Mummy said he still had the
geranium bed to do.  

Of course, Baby could also help you do another essential garden job, which is testing out the barbecue to make sure it still works.  I'll leave it to you to work out the best way to do this.  All I'm saying is, your average barbecue skewer might not be sufficient for the task.


  1. Have you seen the size of blackflies, Fran? They're really far too small to form a nourishing meal for even the most bird-appetite-like baby. Caterpillars, now...

  2. So surreal! What a wacky sense of humour! And what a helpful baby!

  3. Actually, any humour writers you'd recommend? I'd imagine you have good taste in them and it can be hard to get a really good comic novel.

  4. Fran - you are brilliant! You must have written a book detailing your excellent tips - haven't you?

    You should!

    Anna :o]

  5. Oh Fran, if only I'd had your NotAMommyBlogger tips when I was a young mother! I would have fretted much less about my daughter's tendency to eat rolly-polly bugs and dirt pies.

  6. Another proof , were one needed , that women can indeed multi-task .
    Eco warrior , nutrition expert , exercise coach and motivational trainer .
    Mary Poppins writ large .

  7. I have three cats so any blogger with baby but no cat is welcome to pop over.
    I also have the teens old toys and will happily bury them in my veggie beds before I plant up. Baby will have to contend with four hens who are allowed to grub around before the veg is in. This will teach baby more life skills - competition and disappointment. Baby will encounter the latter after working very hard to get a snail out of its shell only to have it pinched by someone else.

  8. Isabelle - okay, so the blackfly can be the starter, and the caterpillars the main course. A nice big crunchy snail for pudding?

    Aine - hm, comic novels. One of my favourites is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. Weirdly enough, I tend to read the tragic more than the comic. Although (these mommy-blogger posts included) the two aren't always that far apart ...

    Hypercryptical - am thinking about it. But if I write this particular book, I also need to think about what I'm going to do in prison for all those years.

    Lesley - we are but dust. So what's wrong with eating a bit of it?

    SmitandSon - I have my umbrella at the ready.

    bad penny - thank you for your kind offers of help. Please post your address so that catless mommies can pop round and get Baby flea-picking.

  9. You're missing a trick with fertiliser too... just let baby crawl about nappyless and hey presto... all the lawn feed you could wish for in neat little trails around the garden...

  10. So where can I get one of these little helpers?
    Have you any in stock or can I order now?
    It won't be long at all before gardening starts in earnest chez Friko's and I can use all the help I can get. Gardener would be grateful too.

    I have the required length of hosepiping for the after-work ablutions.

  11. Fran, you are a wicked, wicked woman.

  12. Steve - remind me not to come round to yours for a garden party.

    Friko - Where can you get one of these little helpers? Just watch out for mummies popping into shops and leaving their buggies outside.

    Martin - how can you say that? I am the epitome of kindness and goodness.

  13. I think these tips will work for grandbabies also. I'm off to visit mine at the end of the month. They are beyond the eating bugs stages, but they'll put their hands into anything.

  14. Ha ha.. Very good!

    Apparently, when my sister was a baby, she bit an earwig in half, held it up to our mum and said: 'Like it, mummy, like it.'

    She did, of course, have trouble distinguishing like from dislike.

  15. An evil Granny! - calls herself No 1 Nana but I think we can all see through that one...

  16. Nana - No one is beyond the bug eating stage - just wrap the bugs in chocolate. Who will know?

    Kit - I hope, like any other normal mother, she finished up what the child didn't want ...

    Isabelle - Nana seems perfectly sensible. To me.

  17. Man alive, I laughed my head off at the one where you got the baby's open mouth collecting grass-cuttings! You loon. I am going to try it this weekend with Izzy. And the bug-eating thing.

    You should be a government adviser.

  18. Thanks Fran. I couldn't get Jean Brodie out of the library, but I picked up Symposium by Muriel Spark. Loved it. Will definately be reading more by her. Thanks.

  19. Annie - I've been waiting for the call from Downing Street for ages. I know it's coming.

    Aine - I haven't read that one! Must catch up with it.


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