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A Garden for Baby to Explore

 
pollinator
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This reply in the baby food garden thread got me thinking. My baby will be toddling around this spring when I'm gardening, and I'd love to have a spot that's mostly safe for her to explore (with supervision, of course). What plants would you put in a "baby garden" that are 100% edible and have no prickly parts? Strawberries, mint, purslane, and dandelion come to my mind.

Danielle Diver wrote:when i was pregnant with my daughter (who is now 2) i would daydream about what i would plant in a garden for her... not so much what would go into the kitchen and get processed, but rather, i was planning a Wild Edibles Baby Garden (maybe a circle, or mandala) where i could plop the baby down in the middle and she could explore, scratch, and eat anything she found. well, truth be told, we live in an apartment in the middle of town, so the reality of this fantasy garden was just that, fantasy, except that it got my brain spinning as to how I can introduce a newish born baby to the joys of nature, and allow them to use their natural learning tools, touch, feel, taste, to explore this new outside dirty beautiful world.


 
gardener
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What a wonderful idea! Chickweed, beets and peas spring to my mind. Chickweed seems to be a favorite of the tiny people I know.
 
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Because it would be tasty now and help your little one get started identifying wild edibles for later, I was about to suggest chickweed too! (My daughter and I nibbled on a lot of that last year that had surreptitiously crept into our garden pots.) To help us learn more about foraging edible plants, I bought us some "weed seeds" for planting in  the garden, such as purslane, watercress, and sorrel.  
 
Nikki Roche
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I forgot about chickweed! That would be a great one for little hands. Henbit and wood sorrel grow abundantly in my yard, and I think those would be good weeds to let grow in a baby area, too. I remember having fun plucking the tiny purple flowers off the henbit plants as a kid.
 
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I always like to recommend Creeping Thyme for paths.

Scarlet runner beans because they are so pretty.

Here are some suggestions from other members:

My kids know where "the band-aid plant" patch is, aka yarrow. They know it's ok to eat dandelions. They know what plantain is for. (wish I had some plantain right now!)



https://permies.com/t/136796/Children-learning-plants#1072413

Of course, all this jumping and agility made them hungry, but their "diner" is just a few feet away! They love munching on sage, chives, and dandelions from my Herbal Hugel Spiral of Randomness.This isn't the only place to get a snack. It's just a short walk to the keyhole garden. It may be early spring, but there's still sorrel, walking onions, dandelions and kale to munch on!

Munching on some sorrel. After he ate his snack, he proceeded to tell me everything he ate: sorrel, dandelions and kale.



https://permies.com/t/84942/Permaculture-Playground-Diner
 
Heather Sharpe
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Can't believe I didn't mention plantain. Such a good one to get little ones familiar with! Also carrots, since the texture of the leaves is super fun to touch.
 
master pollinator
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How fun to imagine gentle garden play in the middle of winter! I plan to channel my inner baby with these suggestions.
One more thought...grasses are edible, can be soft, and they don't have flowers that attract bees. Maybe a little patch of soft grass and a shaker bottle of water would be a fun experience.
 
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lambs ears!

I live in a place with serious bugs, so i'm also thinking it's good to consider your bug/bee load in this kind of garden. My scarlet runner beans are usually the only red flower in my garden when they're flowering and are often covered in bees, which might not be ideal for kiddies. Likewise, my french sorrel often has bugs and snails underneath, while the wood sorrel is usually free and clear.
 
pollinator
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My baby#5 will be 1yo and running round this spring. It's always so fun when they can get around on their own to start exploring.  

Some of my favorite flowering plants for kids (that I haven't already seen mentioned) are
*day lilies
*violets and pansies
*calundula
*marigold
*toothache plant
*oxeye daisy
They bloom and rebloom spring to fall so the kids can pick them and play with them without killing them... And they are all edible.

I have a whole section of my garden that is the sensory garden, for not only looking but picking and feeling and tasting and smelling. Technically you can do that in my whole yard but these plants are especially fun for the senses:
*Rosemary
*Thyme
*Mint varieties (peppermint, spearmint, strawberry mint, Corsican mint, lemon mint, etc)
*Basil varieties (lemon, lime, purple, etc)
*Lavender (my four year old calls these rocket flowers and loves flying them around like spaceships)
*Wintergreen
*Honeysuckle
*Heather (for texture, not tasting)

That garden is right next to a bunch of potted roses that they are allowed to strip of flowers to their hearts content... So many rose petal confetti parades. They are miniature roses which have very tiny almost non-existent thorns.

My favorite veggies to grow for kids are:
*cherry tomatoes (ripen early and are easy to eat)
*sugar snap peas
*pumpkins and squash (so fun to teach about male and female flowers and watch for the fruit to start developing)
*carrots and radishes  and beets (because it's so satisfying to pull up buried treasure!)
*green onions (I have one child who comes in everyday with onion breath, just loves chewing on them)

And fruits, something that may not produce a bumper crop but that produces over a longer period of time so kids are out there everyday looking for and finding ripe fruit:
*some kind of berry bush (in our climate, blueberries are easiest)
*everbearing strawberries
*cane fruit like a fall raspberry (they produce in the spring and fall)
So my kids have learned to pick berries as soon as they could walk. They sometimes get a few leaves too but that doesn't hurt them.



A note on safety in the garden- the thing that scares me the most in the garden is drowning. I had to pull my (then) 18 month almost drowning from a puddle mere inches deep. She was only a few feet away from me and tripped in the grass. As I ran to grab her, I could see her arms straining to push her face from the water and she couldn't get her face clear.

Little kids can also easily drown in containers of water, something that can be common in gardens. So when we go out into the garden, First thing I do as I walk around the garden is to empty any containers of standing water.

I've never had dangerous issues with plants and kids. We practice early on identifying what they can eat, teaching them to check with me before eating something new. They are supervised until they are old enough, which is not usually an issue. The little ones want to start close to mom and help with whatever I'm doing anyway. Worst thing that has happened is little ones gagging on big leaves, like lettuce and beans.
 
Jenny Wright
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Oh I forgot my most favorite kid garden thing- sunflower house! Plant a circle of sunflowers big enough to lay down inside. It's a cool shady secret hideaway. In the fall, the sunflower heads become an awesome project for toddlers- picking out seeds that can then become part of a sensory bin.
 
Jenny Wright
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This baby fence will move outside into the yard in the spring for baby to safely wander the grass when I need both hands for heavy gardening things.
20220104_192131.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20220104_192131.jpg]
 
pollinator
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What a wonderful idea, and so many good suggestions! I would like to add fennel to the mix. Fennel tastes a lot like licorice and happens to also be a good herb for the digestive system, among other things. Fennel tea often gets used in European countries (at least ones I spent time in as a child) for babies and young children to help with colic and stomach aches, etc. It has many other wonderful properties, too, and all parts of the plant are safe for eating.
 
Nikki Roche
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So many good suggestions of plants so far! Those are good points about bees and standing water.

I love the story of using lavender as a rocket!

As much as my baby is already crawling away from me outside, I'm thinking a fence would be a good investment.
 
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This suggestion might be for when they are a little older than toddler, but I remember playing in a green bean teepee when I was a kid. Stand up some 8' sticks in a teepee shape, and plant pole beans around the edge. It's not the most efficient use of space for the garden, but its fun for kids to go inside and pick beans and have a fort.

I did not have problems with them crawling away (more wanted to crawl into my lap), but I would suggest that you make sure the rows and paths are clearly defined with color or height or different mulches or something. Plants will be less likely to be stepped on by kid or adult. I would also warn away from woodchips with a toddler. I love woodchips for my garden, it is great for my garden... however it is terrible for bare feet and terrible on little hands that catch themselves after a trip.

Good luck and enjoy your time with your child in the garden.
 
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I love this subject.  It sure takes me back to when my son Y was little. For the first 9 months I toted him around in a big car seat so he could see what I was doing.  Dandelions and clover tops were a good treat at that age.  He started walking at 9 months, so I had my little side kick everywhere I went.  Going to do chores we would stop by the garden to get a snack for 6 months out of the year.  He loved it.  I taught my son to eat everything out of the garden except purple stuff " eggplant ,rhubarb and pokeweed". Me being a not so good baby sitter, many times I would forget he was with me while working.  He was just a little squirt.  I would usually find him back in the garden stuffing himself.  One day he was about 14 months old I found him with no shirt on with chipmunk cheeks and tomato seed dripping down his chin to his belly.  Now at the age of 17 he is a raw foodie. He eats most things like green beans and broccoli raw.  Another thing that helped potty train him young was giving him a purpose.  I taught him pee is fertilizer.  I gave him places that he could fertilize for next years crops.  He peed all over it!  

I don't think any of being raised this way hurts you.  He is 4 inches taller than me and a straight A student.
 
Matt McSpadden
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Another thing that helped potty train him young was giving him a purpose.  I taught him pee is fertilizer.  I gave him places that he could fertilize for next years crops.  He peed all over it! wrote:



LOL! I love that. If I have any more children, I am totally trying that.
 
Jenny Wright
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:I love this subject.  It sure takes me back to when my son Y was little. For the first 9 months I toted him around in a big car seat so he could see what I was doing.  Dandelions and clover tops were a good treat at that age.  He started walking at 9 months, so I had my little side kick everywhere I went.  Going to do chores we would stop by the garden to get a snack for 6 months out of the year.  He loved it.  I taught my son to eat everything out of the garden except purple stuff " eggplant ,rhubarb and pokeweed". Me being a not so good baby sitter, many times I would forget he was with me while working.  He was just a little squirt.  I would usually find him back in the garden stuffing himself.  One day he was about 14 months old I found him with no shirt on with chipmunk cheeks and tomato seed dripping down his chin to his belly.  Now at the age of 17 he is a raw foodie. He eats most things like green beans and broccoli raw.  Another thing that helped potty train him young was giving him a purpose.  I taught him pee is fertilizer.  I gave him places that he could fertilize for next years crops.  He peed all over it!  

I don't think any of being raised this way hurts you.  He is 4 inches taller than me and a straight A student.



😂 I have done the same with potty training mine. Also when my son and his neighborhood friends were peeing in random places (something I would have been horrified about before I had children), I told them to pee on straw bales I had in the garden. It worked well until my husband caught one of them thinking it was ok to poop on them! 🙄
 
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Thank you for all the postings, so helpful. I'm going to try to put something together on my balcony
 
Jenny Wright
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Jeremy Bailey wrote:Thank you for all the postings, so helpful. I'm going to try to put something together on my balcony


Yay! Have fun with it! I started my first garden by growing in two planter boxes on my patio in the first couple of years after my first baby was born. We had fun growing carrots in them (my first and only real success with carrots! 😜) Strawberries also did really well in those boxes on our porch.

For a small container garden in a balcony, grow what you like the most. Get bush varieties- so many varieties are available for compact container gardening, like tomatoes, zucchini, beans. And herbs are always good and easy.
 
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Let's see! My kids favorite things to munch on when they were little:

Low plants:

    ~ Kale and radish flowers
    ~ Pansy flowers
    ~ Dandelion flowers
    ~ Chives (my son LOVES chives, and even was eating the spicy flowers at a young age)
    ~ Sorrel! French sorrel and sheep sorrel are both easy and low maintenance and yummy (and perennial!)
    ~ Strawberries (can't go wrong with these!)
    ~ Radishes and carrots (mine still get a big kick out of pulling these up. Rainbow carrots and Easter Egger radishes are huge hits)
    ~Elephant garlic or leeks (my son loves eating these, and has been making kale+sorrel+garlic leaf sandwiches since he was like 3)


Taller plants:

    ~ Honeyberry (ripen early! Makes for food sooner than earlier berries)
    ~ Blueberry (both pink and blue ones are a huge hit)
    ~ Peas (ripen early, easy for them to plant, the whole plant is edible)
    ~ Tomatoes (gotta make sure they don't eat the leaves, though)


To Avoid
 

    ~ Daffodils. The young growth looks like garlic at the same time of the season. My son loves eating garlic leaves. The daffodils now live in a special "poison" garden.
    ~ Buttercup
    ~ Foxglove
    ~ Any other poisonous look-alikes!


I really like the chives, sorrel, strawberry and other perennials. These are harder for the kids to kill, easier for the parent to care for (because time is limited when you're a parent!), and tasty!

Here's some pictures of my kids munching away in their garden (more pictures in my thread Permaculture Playground and Diner)

my daughter munching on chives when she was about 2


I built that Herbal Hugel Spiral of Randomness when my son was 2. I think it's important to be okay with starting out small and building more as you have time. The kids will keep enjoying it as you go along. I think it's also really handy to have the kids garden be near your garden, because my kids were always around me. So, if I wanted to get anything done, I needed to do it near them.

My kids' second favorite garden is the keyhole garden. I think having a place to sit and munch with lots of variety within reach, is really tempting for kids!

My son sitting on the cement to get sorrel.
My daughter fisting the sorrel she could reach


Keeping the kids garden close the the home (in "Zone 1") is also really handy, because if you're kids are anything like mine, you'll be running back in and out of the house to change diapers, get snacks, get toys, get dry clothes, etc. Having a potty you can take outside is really handy during the potty training years, so you don't have to stop everything and take the kid inside to go pee/poop. You'll lose a lot of time going in and out of the house!

Some more good threads about children's/baby gardens:

Plants for kids gardens, any ideas?
Best plants to stimulate a multi-sensory experience
Tips and Tricks for Gardening with Wee Ones
Creating an Outdoor Play Area
Ways to teach the basics while gardening and practicing permaculture!
Permaculture for Ages 0-3
 
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