What are your favorite things you use when gardening with babies and kids?
I love my Boba Carrier. My daughter currently spends her whole time outside snuggly contained on my chest, and usually takes a good 1-2 hour nap there while I work in the garden. I also used it a LOT with my son, carrying him on my back until he was at least 2. He can actually still ride in it if he wants to, but it's usually being used by my daughter. This thing was indispensable for me. When they were newborn to 2 months, I wore them in a Baby K'tan, which is like a moby wrap but without nearly as much wrapping. But, it's not nearly as supportive as a structural carrier like the Boba, and I found it stretched out really easily. Sometimes, especially when it's cold, I'll actually wrap my daughter in the K'tan, and then wear the Boba over it for more support and coziness.
One my son got old enough to sit unsupported, I would put a blanket outside where I was working, especially when I was hanging laundry. With a few toys to play with and laundry blowing in the breeze to watch, he was usually happy for at least the time it took me to hang my laundry. I've never had a pack and play, but putting a sheet over one seems like a really neat way to keep a baby contained, in the shade, and safe from mosquitoes. Like this:
My three year old loves playing with a small hand trowel (he's always used my cheap aluminum hand shovel. I see no need to buy an extra toy one when a normal works just fine for him, and is likely more durable), a "toy" rake, and a D Handled Shovel. Once again, the D Handle Shovel is a tool made for adults and so is sturdy and durable enough for me to use it, but small enough for him to use it, too.
He also likes using my Extendalbe Cultivator Hoe, and has been helping prepare my potato bed with it. Of course, I'm always a little worried he'll pull it out of the ground too hard and smack himself in the head with it's sharp edges. So, I try to always have it extended to the length that has sharp parts above his head while swinging it... Another adult tool he likes to try to use is my reel mower, though he doesn't get too far with the thing on our bumpy ground with tall grass...
His favorite garden tool is. by far, his wheelbarrow. He has this one that his grandparents bought him, and he LOVES it. He helps me cart around dirt to make hugels, and even hauls small logs to stack in our firewood stack.
He also really, really, really loves watering cans. He broke the rose off of two of mine, and dented the third. I finally bought myself a nice one, as well as new metal one for him. I'm pretty sure this red watering can is the one we bought at a local Do-It Best store. It seems very durable and is the perfect size for his three-year old body. It carries 1 gallon, but they make 2.3 gallon and 0.5 gallon sized ones as well.
Other things that keep him occupied while I garden are lots of random containers and some buckets and a funnel. The kids LOVES to scoop and dump. Of course, make sure the kid isn't left unattended around large buckets, etc. because they can down in such small amounts of water. A normal spray nozzle on a garden hose and letting him "water" the garden is also really useful (I usually have the water barely turned on to attempt to save water...) . A little red wagon is also a lot of fun for him, and we do often conscript it to carry things from place to place.
An adult-sized wheel barrow also comes in handy for transporting toddlers and larger kids, too .
I think I remember all our favorite gear. What are yours?
Thought I'd mention a characteristics to look for--and avoid--in children's garden tools. First and foremost, make sure the tool is durable. So often children's tools are "toys" and are made cheep and flimsy. If your kid is anything like mine, they'll put their tools through the ringer. They'll crash their wheel barrow into rocks, bang their shovel on the ground and step on their rake. And, I'm usually busy trying to get stuff done in the garden to constantly reprimand and guide the kid on how to use his tools. I also don't want gardening to be stressful for either him or me, and I'm pretty sure constantly telling him to be gentle with his tools would stress us both out! And, when he's so little, even if he's careful, he's still going to be hard on his tools until he gains more finesse and motor skills. This is why a lot of his tools are actually adult tools that happen to be his size, as adult tools are generally more durable that children's garden tools/toys.
Living in the pacific northwest where rain and drizzle and mist and all sorts of other precipitation are quite common, I avoid wood in children's tools. While I always try to remind my son to put his tools in the shed when he's done with them, sometimes neither of us know where he left it during his play! I like not having to worry about the tools being destroyed because they were lost for a few days. For the same reason, I avoid tools for him that might rust. Tools made from aluminum and durable plastics are really great in this aspect. Of course, plastics have their downsides, too, as they leach chemicals that aren't good for humans, especially little humans. If I had my way, all his tools would be galvanized steel or aluminum!
I hope she loves it! We bought my 2-year old daughter her own Bond D-handle shovel last year, because she was always wanting to play with her brother's. Both shovels are holding up amazingly well, and I sometimes steal borrow them to use for moving around compost or digging small holes.
Both kids love the wheelbarrow, too. I'm tempted to buy another one, but I'm hoping they'll be able to share it! That, and my son is getting so strong that he can actually push the adult-sized wheel barrow around, though rather slowly! The other day, I was mowing the lawn with my reel-mower, and they went along behind me picking up the grass clippings and putting them in the little wheelbarrow and then putting them on the potato bed. It was entirely their own idea, and so cute!
I'm rather amazed at how skilled my son is getting with his shovel and wheelbarrow. Even though he doesn't use them that often, he's now able to dig a hole all by himself, and push around the big wheel barrow, because he's gained the dexterity from practice and play. I'm pretty sure he's already better at digging with a shovel than I was just 6 years ago when we bought our place. I never had a shovel to dig with, and not many reasons to use my parents' shovels as a child. Giving them these things when they are young and just letting them play and work with them when they want, is so huge!
I find it fascinating how they'll go through phases, too, about the things they want to use. My son got an really nice, huge dump-truck a few years ago, and is just now really enjoying it. And he'll go for spans of time in which he doesn't use the wheelbarrow and when he does---but it's aways there, and I like having no pressure about it. It seems to slowly be creating a genuine love of the tools and what they can do.