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Sweet Baby Peas… plant it, grow it, eat it!

The very best place for toddlers to learn is in the garden - it's a place for building strong bodies, engaging sensory experiences that feed the mind, it’s a place for learning language and to investigate the world around them in a super natural way. It’s a place where experiences ensure that little children get everything they need to develop their little brains – it’s the best place to learn by doing, it’s the best place for developing life-long skills!

He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work - the hands (of the child) are the instrument of man’s intelligence” Dr. Maria Montessori.

It’s a sustainable place, a place to teach vital environmental messages in a sub-conscious way.  The toddler does not have the language or cognitive development to understand abstract messages, but they learn from what they see!  If we want a better world – it starts with the kids!

“If we want to change the world -  put the toddler in the garden!  From the moment they can walk -  show it to them – name it for them, model skills to them and then give them the tools to plant it, grow it and eat it for themselves!  Ruth Barker – The Little Kid Specialist.

Plant it!

It can be daunting for a parent!  Very daunting indeed!  A want of giving children the very best – alongside the challenges of income and time that sometimes impede!  But the garden dare not be costly – and dare not take too much time!

Here’s the top tips:

. start with a small plot

. start with simple plants that are easy to grow – that have small growth times for the children to see changes and life-cycles quickly!

. seeds not seedling – show them lifecycles!

. allow toddlers to attend to jobs and water themselves (with supervision) as often as they like!

Here’s the top seven:

. silverbeet

. cucumber or zucchini

. snow pea

. carrot

. tomato

. sunflower

Planting one of each of the top seven is a great start (zone and weather permitting of course!).  These give toddlers so many vital lessons in life, language and science!  Such a rich vocabulary and experience from just seven plants!   Think of the different elements each provides – the silverbeet is a leaf, the snow pea is a pod with seeds, the carrot grows under the ground, the tomato is a fruit and has seeds and the sunflower…. Is just beautiful.  It’s the best first flower there is!

Grow it!

Here’s the top tips:

. children need to see the processes before the products – show them how to prepare the soil, plant the seed, water the seed, mulch the seedling, weed the garden and use compost!

. show them the processes one by one over time – little minds don’t’ need to be bombarded – nor do they have the attention span – children innately put the processes together themselves as they grow!

. be enthusiastic!

. name, name, name – everything!

. give toddlers their own tools – that fit into their hands – just for them!

. failure is a normal – it’s a part of the process – but more importantly – it’s a part of life – it teaches children to be resilient from the start!

. and please - never punish – it’s meant to be fun!

Eat it!

It’s the super fun bit!  Show the toddler how to prepare their food!  Let them be involved!  There’s a myriad of things to do with just seven plants!

Here’s the top tips:

. collect from the plot – make it fun with a super-sized basket for one silverbeet leaf!

. make it an adventure – sing!  “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, we’re going on a big adventure – let’s go let’s go let’s go… come and have some fun!”

. provide simple cooking lessons – teach little ones how to peel, chop, slice, grate

. cook real food and let the toddler do all that they can!

. the process is always more important than the product!

. be enthusiastic!

. name, name, name everything!

. give toddlers their own tools – that fit into their hands – just for them!

And then...

. chop the silverbeet

. grate the zucchini

. coil the cucumber

. shell the peas

. peel the carrots

. roast the tomatoes and peel off the skin

. dry the sunflowers and pick out the seeds

. make a fried rice

. make a frittata

. make some carrot, zucchini or cucumber sticks

. make tomato soup

… and don’t forget the sunflower seed bread!

All the children’s tools in this blog are available at or

Ruth Barker, The Little Kids Specialist is an Author, Columnist, Presenter, Montessori Guide and Play Specialist for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers.  You can find her here:






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