Tucker Comer, 2, is learning all about the wide world of nature in his parents’ Gordonsville backyard. (Photo by Marcy May Photography)
Challenge: Integrating a toddler into the garden
By Elexis Comer’s estimation, her family’s garden plot is over 3,000 square feet. She has pictures of her husband, Jamie, preparing the bed in early spring on the neighbor’s tractor with their son Tucker (2) at the wheel (“Look, ma! No hands!”). Their Gordonsville home is surrounded by three acres of woods and wonder.
“It’s easy with kids that age to get them outside and just doing stuff,” said Elexis. “Even if it’s just digging in the dirt or picking up rocks and stacking them up.”
Most of the activity this spring and summer has centered on the garden plot. “This is actually the first year we’ve made a real, real big garden,” Elexis explained. “Before we had it in just the [raised beds].”
The plot is surrounded by fencing to keep their 10 free-range chickens away from the tender plants and seeds.
“[Last year] they literally ate all of the corn. They were like, ‘Oh! Corn! Awesome!’”
This year, Tucker helped his parents plant the corn. Elexis recounted the experience: “He is like digging up corn and putting corn everywhere. So, there are no, like, rows to the corn. It’s more like a corn patch…[Tucker] wants to help do everything. I would put seeds in his hand and he’d drop them down from there. I’d cover them up and he’d go, ‘Good job, Mom!’ Every time. My husband was like, ‘You must be doing a really good job over there.’”
|Can you dig it?
It’s a dirty job but most kids love to do it! Digging, planting and playing in the garden can be wheelbarrow-loads of fun. Keep those small, sensitive hands safe from sharp rocks and buried debris with brightly colored gloves ($4.95) from Fifth Season. While you’re there you might want to pick up a slingshot ($6.99) and a tube of Seed Bombs ($7.99) for the older gardeners in the family.—C.B.
And Mom isn’t the only one getting Tucker’s bright-eyed positive reinforcement. “We have a couple chickens that when they lay eggs they like to let you know about it. So he is like, ‘Mama, what’s that?’ and I said, ‘That’s the chicken and she’s telling us that she laid an egg.’ He goes, ‘GOOD JOB, CHICKEN!’”
Both Elexis and Jamie grew up in rural settings, and along with that upbringing came an appreciation for the outdoors, the land and the role we, as individuals, play in preserving it. This awareness of consumption and respect for the natural world is something that the Comers seek to instill in their son. “I want my son to have a future,” Elexis said. “Things like recycling, composting, […]less waste, buying recycled, reusing stuff, is really important. I tell people all the time, ‘Uh, excuse me, can you recycle that, because I’d like for my son not to stand in a landfill.’”
Taking an active part out of doors and inside the home creates many opportunities for learning, adventure and discovery for young Tucker.
“I guess in this economy and life that we live in now,” Elexis observed, “it’s not as easy as, you know, ‘Oh, we’re gonna go here and spend all this money to do something.’ You can just go outside and walk around and teach your children so much just in your own yard. Even if you don’t have a huge yard like I do, if you have a very small yard: Finding bugs and rocks and dirt and chickens and dogs and trees. There’s always teaching moments to have with your children, no matter how old they are.”—Christy Baker