Toddler Thursday: Reflections on Potty Training Twins

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I originally posted this on my blog a couple of weeks after Baby B potty-trained, which was about 6 months to the day after Baby A potty-trained.  I decided to document what worked for us, in hopes that it might be helpful to someone else.  Here’s hoping!

Potty Training Reflections

I remember where I was a year ago…I didn’t know much about potty-training, but I knew it would be in my relatively near future. I planned to do my research and decide upon an approach. I would be prepared, and I figured that would be at least half the battle.

When Baby A started showing some signs of interest in the potty, shortly after she turned two, I started reading…the parenting books I had, online sources of parenting information, blog posts. Outside of the “boot camp” approach, I didn’t feel like there was much “methodology” to understand. I read about reward systems and pull-ups, but I surely didn’t find a step-by-step guide as I’d hoped.

Having said goodbye to diapers three full weeks ago (!!!), I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned. I know that two children does not a statistically significant sample make, but – even with the girls being very different from each other – there are a couple of learnings I can point to in our experience. Some of these are personal opinions of mine, and some are more overarching principles that I’ll actually reference beyond potty-training.

Consider your rewards very carefully, in light of what behavior you’re trying to motivate.

I often hear about people using sticker charts or M&Ms, with rewards earned for output, sometimes in weighted amounts. In both cases, our girls told us they wanted to start using the potty, so I didn’t need to motivate them to “produce”.

Instead, I sold our girls hard on how cool it was to get to flush the potty. With both of them we went through a period of time when they wanted to tee just a couple of drops to be able to flush (I could just imagine how manipulative things could have gotten if they were jonesing for M&Ms!). I told them, “That’s not enough to flush.” (In Baby A’s first couple of days, we flushed so much the potty actually did “break”…fortunately Hubby heard the anguish in my voice and was able to rescue me during his lunch period that day. In the midst of potty-training, I was in no state to deal with a plunger myself!)

The “prestige” of being a big girl, of flushing the potty, and of wearing pretty underwear seemed to be motivation enough for both our girls. After several months, Baby A began having some very small accidents…not wanting to interrupt her play for a bathroom break. About six weeks ago I started awarding her a sticker at the end of the day for keeping clean and dry all day. It worked like a charm! She loves to get her card off the refrigerator, pick a sticker, and show her new sticker off to her daddy. I immediately got Baby B on the same system, and she’s been earning stickers almost every day, too.

“Play” is part of learning, but I only allow it in measured doses.

When both girls started using the potty, it was quite the novelty, of course. It was so frustrating to me how much they wanted to play! Whereas I don’t tolerate playing at mealtime, though, I was afraid to reprimand them too much on the potty…ultimately they were doing what I was trying to encourage. Someone commented on a blog post, reminding me that a child’s job is to play. It was a great reminder for me to be patient, and know that the novelty would wear off sooner or later.

Still, I have rules about sitting on the potty. Your hands belong on the handles on either side of the seat. When the girls start to play the “why” game, or sing, or get otherwise distracted, I’ll remind them, “We’re here to make our tee-tees / stinkies. We can talk / sing when you’re finished.”

I don’t “reprimand” them so much as encourage positive behavior. After a point, though, if I think they’re truly just playing, then potty-time is over.

Be flexible – and encourage flexibility – in the potty location.

Before the girls started to potty-train, I was vehemently opposed to using a potty chair. (I couldn’t imagine having to clean it out!) I bought the girls a potty ring for the regular toilet. That worked fine…until Baby A seemed to use potty-time as an excuse to garner one-on-one time with Mommy (the bathroom being separate from the playroom). I bought the potty chair and put it right next to the playroom. That quickly addressed Baby A trying to go every five minutes.

Baby A used the potty ring on the upstairs potty, and she had no trouble using the portable potty seat in public restrooms. And if we’re at a friend’s house, she does fine sitting on the regular toilet (I hold her gently to make sure she doesn’t lose balance and fall in!) I have heard about kids getting attached to one particular potty chair or ring. By introducing different potty paraphernalia from the beginning, I hoped to avoid that issue.

I started Baby B on the potty chair, but she was playing so much…bouncing with her feet and wanting to lift the seat from the base. So I moved her to using the potty ring. That allowed me to discourage her playing, as her feet don’t touch the floor. I also transitioned A to the big potty, so we’re potty chair-free these days, too!

I never used Pull-ups.

I don’t mean to be controversial here…I know there’s a big market for this intermediate step, so it must work for a lot of families. Maybe because I was able to wait for our girls to make the first move, though, letting me know they wanted to use the potty, I never felt Pull-ups were necessary. I didn’t like the idea of putting a “just in case” / back-up system in place.

I think some parents use a Pull-up when they leave the house, to avoid messy accidents away from home. I certainly understand that fear! I wanted to avoid that scenario at all costs, too. For us that meant staying at home during the first three to five days when the girls were taking on their new responsibility.

With Baby A, who trained at 27 months, I took very small outings at first…a walk around the block for 30 minutes…then working up to a quick run to Target within a 45 minute window. I would wait until she’d just used the potty at home to time our trip.

With Baby B being older (I guess), this didn’t seem like much of an issue. When she “got it”, within the first five days, I felt comfortable to leave the house as usual. She used a public potty within the first week, and it wasn’t a big deal.

Potty-training is an emotional time.

I saw it with both my girls…they became very sensitive when they were potty-training. I’ve read about developmental changes inciting emotions, and I believe it wholeheartedly. I explained it to myself that the girls were coping with a huge responsibility, and – relative to their little worlds – that was a lot of pressure on them. Once they became more confident in their abilities, within a week or so, their emotions stabilized (at least relative to a two-year old!).

Baby A also regressed a bit when Baby B started training. I didn’t anticipate it, but I recognized it quickly. For a full six months, Baby A had been a star on the throne…and here was her sister joining her in the spotlight, wearing pretty underwear, and getting stickers, just like she had been. Whereas Baby A’s potty use had become a fact of life, I began to praise her again, noting how proud I was of her, as well as her sister.

Potty-training is stressful.

A blog friend of mine wrote a year or so ago, “If potty training is stressful, your children aren’t ready.” A couple of kids later, I agree…but…it’s all relative.

Even though I feel confident both my girls were ready, such that motivation wasn’t a huge factor, potty training was still a stressful time. That first week or so there was a constant need for attention…looking at the clock…listening for cues…back and forth to the potty…wanting to discipline, but not wanting to discourage.

But…everything evens out. The newness wears off, the routines kick in, and – over time – going to the potty becomes a part of life. Like so many other journeys to date in this crazy ride called parenthood, potty-training is just a phase. It will pass. You will all survive.

Still…treat yourself! I didn’t reward the girls with chocolate, but you’d better believe I kept a stash for myself! And I distinctly remember on Day 6 of Baby A’s training, I took myself to the Dairy Queen after the girls were in bed. I got a Reese’s Blizzard and sat in the car, all by my lonesome, and enjoyed every spoonful.

***

With enough time, {almost} every experience is sweet in hindsight.  Potty training was not exactly fun, but we made the best of it.  

If you’re in the midst of training, hang in there!  If training is ahead of you, you can do it!  And if you’ve been there and done that, we’d love to hear any tips and tricks you can share!

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Toddler Thursday: Eyes and Ears and Bananas and Nose

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Is there anything more endearing than a toddler’s perspective on the world? Yes, my twin girls are big kids now at nearly nine years old, but a few blinks ago, they were toddlers. There are certain observations of theirs that live in a special vault of joy in my memory. I pull them out and look at them on occasion. This is one of those.

Meet Antelope, pronounced “Aninam” in the 23-month-old edition of M&J-ese. Antelope, along with 5 other animal hand puppets, was a gift from my high school English teacher when I found out I was pregnant. (Yes, I had awesome teachers. Who else not only stays in touch with former students in adulthood, but sends them gifts from continents away?)

A soft hand puppet in the shape of an antelope.

On the drive home from daycare, then 23-month-old M and I had this conversation:

M: Sissy Kwirro.
Sadia: Yes, J has Squirrel and you have Antelope.
M: Aninam.
Sadia: Antelope.
M: Aninam nose.
Sadia: Yep, Antelope has a nose, just like you.
M: Aninam eyes. Ooooone, twoooo eyes. Two eyes. Ears. Aninam oooone, twooo ears. Nana.
Sadia: Nana?
M: No. Nana!
Sadia: Nana?
M: No! Nana!
Sadia: Banana?
M: Yeah! Aninam nana!

Allow me to clarify.

At age almost 2, M labelled her toys body parts, subbing "banana" for "horn".When the word “horn” has yet to enter your vocabulary, “banana” will do just fine. This sort of creative usage of the words at your disposal is common to first language learners and adult second language learners alike, and is called circumlocution. Another great example is a toddler saying “wall on the top” when they haven’t yet learned “ceiling”.

What memory of toddler confusion brings you the greatest joy?

Toddler Thursday: Tackling Tantrums

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I’ve mentioned in the past that age 3 was my least favourite phase, primarily because of all the tantrums that I had to contend with. My local public radio station hosts a feature called Two Guys on Your Head in which two professors take a practical pop science approach to various matters of human behaviour and the brain. Recently, they talked about tantrums. You can hear the entire 7 minute discussion below.

My 8-year-olds and I listened to this together, on my urging, and I was surprised by how much they took away from the podcast. When my daughter M began to whine about something and started to escalate, J looked at me and said, “Don’t feed her tantrum, mom. I’ll talk to her later.” For those of you without 7 minutes to spare, allow me distill it down for you.

  1. Tantrums are a black hole. Whatever energy you put in simply feeds the tantrum.
  2. Don’t reward a tantrum with attention. No matter how well-intended, it will simply extend the pain. You can’t rationalize it away.
  3. A tantrum is no fun without an audience. Place your child somewhere safe and alone until it abates.
  4. Give children time to calm down, even after the loud part of the storm has passed.

4 practical tips for handling tantrums, from a mom and two scientists.

Do your toddlers throw tantrums? How do you handle them?

Toddler Thursday: My Picky Eater

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Like many two-year-olds, my son is a picky eater.

Not the kind of picky eater you’d normally think of– the ones who make you wonder how they could possibly be alive. No, my son eats, and eats a lot. He’s actually quite a meaty little boy. As a baby he was definitely chunky, above average in weight at every doctor’s appointment. He’s always eaten more than his twin sister, and now weighs almost two pounds more than she does.

But there are certain things he just won’t touch. When he started his first solids, I discovered that he did not like fruits or vegetables. He would eat all the meat and carbs I gave him, but he’d spit out anything green, and tentatively try only a couple bites of fruit at most. Which was very interesting to me, because his sisters both LOVE fruits and veggies and will eat them nonstop all day long, at the exclusion of all other foods.

I haven’t done too much to rectify the situation. I figure children are born with certain food preferences, and eventually they become adults with food preferences. Everyone has foods they like and dislike. My own have changed as I’ve gotten older, but that’s not a result of what my parents did or didn’t do when I was younger. As long as my son wasn’t malnourished (and he certainly wasn’t), and I tried to balance out his eating with juices, raisins, and some hidden carrots once in a while, I was just fine with his eating habits.

Parents of picky eaters, take heart. Lunchldyd's 2-year-old is expanding his palate!

But something surprising has been happening! Slowly over the last few months, my picky son has not only been trying all the fruits and vegetables he’s been given, but he now actually asks for some of these foods! I can only guess that because they’re always served to his sisters at every meal, and fruits are even fought over, my boy didn’t want to be left out. To my amazement, he will now also fight his sisters for those tangerine wedges and blueberries!!

He still doesn’t eat as much of the fruits or veggies as his sisters do, and will probably continue to prefer his meat and carbs, but he’s definitely not so picky anymore. So, parents of picky eaters, take heart. Keep serving a variety of foods and your kids may just turn around.

lunchldyd is mom to 27 month old boy/girl twins and their 4.5 year old sister. She now teaches only part-time to juggle the needs of her young children. When not at work and the kids are asleep, she is addicted to watching TV and sometimes sacrifices sleep to read in bed. She lives in a too-small house in the Los Angeles suburbs with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.

The One-Year Myth

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Categories Age Brackets, Emotion, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Other people, Parenting, Toddlers22 Comments

New parents of twins are assured that it gets easier after the first year. Katie finds that it stays hard, just differently.

When you’re pregnant with twins, everyone tells you how hard the first year is. When your twins turn one, everyone congratulates you on surviving the first year. My twins will be 18-months old soon and I’m still waiting for it to get easier. Sure, some things are a little easier. They (usually) sleep through the night. They’re starting to use a few words to communicate their needs. They occasionally will entertain each other for a minute or two. But, by the way people talked up this first year milestone, I guess I expected the skies to part a little more than they have! And what little break in the clouds there was, was filled with climbing dining room chairs to stand on tables, power struggles over getting into the high chair, stranger danger so intense that no one can babysit other than grandma and grandpa, consistent 5am wake ups, and my personal favorite: mastering the babyproofing in the kitchen (mental image of my son pulling out the large stockpot and pushing it through our kitchen and living room day in and day out). Last week, a mom of three-year-old twins confessed, after watching our chaos, “Oh, I HATED 18-months.” I wanted to shout, “What?!? You people promised it’d be easier by now! I’ve been duped!”

One particular aspect of mothering twins that has continued to surprise me is how daunting it is to take them anywhere on my own. Again, I was hopeful this would get a little bit easier once they could walk; being able to hold hands to walk to the car as opposed to carrying two infant carseats, etc. However, it still feels nearly impossible to go anywhere with the two little monkeys where there isn’t a person on the other end willing to help me. This seems to be one of the biggest areas in which I feel so different, I imagine so much more isolated, than a mom of singletons. The jealousy I felt more often when my babies were little creeps in a little bit when I’m sweaty and frustrated trying to wrangle my two at a play group, and a mom of one child of the same age as mine sips her coffee and makes a new friend.

Several months ago I wrote a post on here about deciding whether to have another baby after twins. That was eight months ago. If you’d asked me then if I thought I’d be closer to a decision by now, I would have said, definitely, still believing in the myth of the one-year epiphany. But I’m starting to wonder if it EVER feels any easier and if I will even have the energy for my two that I DO have. (The optimist in my feels the need to balance all this out with stories of them starting to give each other hugs, belly laughs playing together in the bathtub and snuggles on the couch. There IS that balance, of course. If there wasn’t, the question of one more wouldn’t be. I guess I just expected the scales to tip a little further in favor of the lovelier moments. Do they ever??)

One thing within my control that I am doing to survive toddlerhood with twins is scaling back my expectations.  My New Years resolution is: “Simplify.”  This fall was the busiest I’ve ever been in all parts of my life, and I realize this contributes to my frustration.  Ultimately, my kids are number one.  While there is a touch of disappointment that I cannot make a social get together, or take on one more thing at work, if saying no to these things gives me the patience to see the amusing side of the mischievousness in our house, I’ll take the disappointment with a smile.

How did you survive toddlerhood with twins?

A Little Bittersweet

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Categories Development, Emotion, Grief, Infants, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Toddlers3 Comments

My twins turned two years old two weeks ago. With the hustle and bustle of Halloween then Thanksgiving, I hadn’t realized until the other day when I turned their carseats to forward-facing that my babies are really growing up.

Years ago, right before Big Sis turned one, my husband came home one day to find me looking through her photographs and bawling. I couldn’t believe my baby was becoming a toddler. But now my days are so consumed with the constant exhaustion of 3 kids that I rarely have time to reminisce. And if I do get the chance to think about anything, it’s how nice it would be when they’re all older and we wouldn’t have to deal with tantrums or nap schedules anymore. How great would it be to have a family vacation somewhere far-ish?

But once in a while, like when the twins’ rear-facing carseats flanking Big Sis’s center forward-facing seat became just like hers, it dawns on me that we’ve passed yet another stage of their babyhood. Never again will I see those little faces looking at me through the mirrors hanging from the headrests. Never again will my babies happily throw their chubby little feet towards their sister to be tickled. Thinking about that is kind of worth bawling over.

That’s not to say, however, that forward-facing seats are bad. There is more space between the front seats and second row for the also-growing-bigger Big Sis to get to her seat without having to crouch and squeeze. There are fewer crevices in which crumbs and other nasty stuff can get trapped between the carseats and the car. I actually have access to the front seatback pockets without obstruction. The twins can (and sometimes do) climb into their seats by themselves. And they are really enjoying their increased visibility (how exciting it’s been to drive after dark and hear all 3 of them marvel at the Christmas lights passing by)! I’m glad we’ve graduated to forward-facing seats.

And yet… it’s bittersweet. Every milestone is a triumph tinged with sadness.

Make-It Monday: Involving Your Children in Holiday Giving

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We try to keep holidays sweet and simple at our house, and I’m doing my best to impart the joy of giving of ourselves in my twin girls, who are now almost six.

I love to think of opportunities to involve the girls in the process of making handmade gifts, at least in some small way.  Approaching six years of age, there are lots of things the girls can do, especially when it comes to making holiday goodies with me in the kitchen.  I had to be much more creative when they were smaller…the idea of four little hands in the flour was not one I wanted to tackle with twin toddlers!

Today I’m sharing a some of the things we’ve done over the past few years, going back to when our girlies were approaching two.

Gift tags.  It’s become a tradition that our girls make gift tags to adorn the presents and goodies we give to our friends and families.  (I love that a few family members save the tags and use them as ornaments!)  The first year, I let the girls go to town with green finger paint on white card stock.

Xmas4I used a scallop punch to cut out 2″ ‘wreaths’, and I punched holes to show through to a red paper circle of berries.  I applied glue to the ‘wreaths’ and let the girls put the two pieces together.  Here’s the finished product:

Xmas3Another year I let the girls loose with a ‘present’ stamp, which they then colored.  (I had visions of checkered red and green packages…but they had other ideas, using almost every color in the crayon box.)

Xmas6And my favorite to date the girls did last year.  Xmas8At almost-five, they were able to complete these all by themselves, but these could be done with younger kiddos with some supervision.  We used washable brown ink to make thumb prints, and the tip of their index fingers in washable red ink made the nose.  The girls used markers to draw the eyes and antlers.  I love all the personality these little reindeer have!

Gift bags.  The girls had such fun making these bags when they were near-three.  I let them pick out button eyes, and I assembled the other pieces from card stock, felt, and sequins.  I applied glue to the pieces, and they put them in place.  XMas1

Cards.  I LOVE making cards  with the girls.  XMas2These were some of our earliest holiday creations.  At not-quite-two, I had the girls scribble with green crayons.  I cut out their scribbles in the shape of a tree, and I glued them to a blank card.  I let them decorate the tree with stickers, a favorite pastime at that age.

 

Charitable giving.  The last couple of years, the girls have had so much fun shopping for the food bank…it’s the one time of year I let them drive the miniature shopping carts at the grocery store, and they so look forward to it.  And of course we have to decorate bags to carry our goodies.

Tidings of Cheer.  The girls always go with me to deliver goodies to our neighbors.

Xmas9Since they were tiny, I’ve worked with them on a holiday message.  The first year they were able to participate, just shy of two years old, it was a simple, “Merry Christmas!”  We worked up to them singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” when they were almost three.  The last couple of years, they’ve sung an abridged version of Jingle Bells as we passed out our goodies.  (Reindeer antlers add to the fun!)

Holidays seem infinitely more fun with littles in tow, and I love involving my girlies in all the festivities.  It’s something pretty special to see the light in their eyes when they share their own creations with our friends and families.

How do you involve your kiddos in the holiday season?

MandyE is mom to almost-six-year-old twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Toddler Thursday: More on Gardening

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Our garden has been in the ground for more than a month now, which gives me some fodder for a follow-up and more pretty pictures. Some of my original plants haven’t thrived as well as I’ve hoped, so we’ve made a few updates and generally expanded. As I’ve been working in the dirt and using trial and error to make progress, I’ve had some time to think of more tips that I might want to pass along to others who might like to try gardening with their toddlers or preschoolers. So here are a few.

image2

Start small. My recent gardening has been largely limited to a flowerbed that has existed since before we even bought our house seven years ago. It had become overgrown the past several years, so I’ve been slowly digging the saplings and weeds out of the bed and expanding my planting space. The goal is not to grow so quickly that I can’t maintain what I’ve done. And allowing my garden to expand as I clear the space gives me some motivation to keep up with the less interesting part of gardening.

image4

Give your kids a job. Last weekend, we went to the nursery and I assigned my kids to choose four plants each from the annuals table. It allowed them an opportunity to practice their counting and color-identifying skills, and they got to make choices about what we’d add to our garden. Then at home, they each had a trowel, and I had them dig holes for our new plants. Full disclosure: they lost interest long before everything was planted, but that gave me an opportunity to fix plant spacing and group things in ways that I found aesthetically appealing.

A wheelbarrow full of green shiny rocks.

 

Leave room for walking through your garden. Kids never use stepping stones. Ever. So leave them some room to step between plants. And as corollary: Don’t worry too much if things get squished. Most plants will bounce back.

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Use what you have on hand. I’ve got several animal-shaped planters and pieces of yard art. It made a lot of sense to bring them all over to the kids’ garden, where they could add a bit of whimsy.

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Happy Gardening!

Halloween and Fall Traditions

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Happy Halloween! Popping in to share one of my favorite Halloween Traditions: Our Annual Pumpkin Patch trip. My boys were born the first week in November, so they were nearly a year old their first Halloween. I went with another twin mom to an Apple Orchard/Pumpkin farm and snapped this picture of them in the field, which became one of my favorite photos ever. It is enlarged and hangs on my wall. Every year since then we have visited a pumpkin farm to snap a photo and watch them grow. Because it is so close to their birthday, these are great milestone photos too. 

This the the only tradition we have kept up for Halloween every year, we have been out of town for the past two years, so my boys are trick or treating tonight for the first time they might actually remember. (we have beeb before but they were 2.)

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 1

 Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 5

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 2

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 3

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 4

 

Jen lives near Chicago where she is the Mom of these rambunctious, adorable almost-5-year-old twins and a sometimes-blogger at HDYDI.com and her family blog Go Team Wood that is mostly Instagram photos if we’re being honest.

Toddler Thursday: Gardening with Twins

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Fall has finally arrived here in Central Texas, though you’d hardly know it by the hot, dry weather we’ve had lately.  Still, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we approach the middle of October. My twins turn three this month, and they are very interested in playing outside and being involved in everything I’m doing. It’s put me in the mindset of starting a garden with my kids this fall – a goal I’ve had since before I even had kids. (In the northern climes, most gardening happens in the spring, but here in Texas, where are summers are far more extreme than our winters, the best gardening happens in October and November.)

Gardening is a great activity to do with toddlers as they start to develop their gross motor skills. It allows them to get fresh air and some sunshine, it’s physical, and, with a bit of luck, they can watch their work blossom into fruition! (See what I did there?)

It’s a good idea to consider a plan for your garden before you break ground. First, it might be helpful to choose a theme that appeals to you and your kids. You could choose edible plants, like herbs and veggies, to encourage your kids to try new flavors and eat more plant-based foods. You could decide on a garden full of plants that attract beautiful butterflies or hummingbirds. You could choose all the purple plants you can lay your hands on.  In our case, the garden we’ve been working on is inspired by the sense of touch – plants with interesting textures, herbs that emit lovely smells when the leaves are rubbed, and generally anything that allows kids to get hands-on with the garden.

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

You’ll also need to think about the conditions of the area in which you’re planting. We’re working in an existing bed which happens to be located in a shady part of my yard. I’ve done some research to determine which plants with interesting textures would grow well in that environment in my region, and when I went shopping, I took a list with me. Herbs are great for a touch garden, but most herbs require lots of sun, so I had to adjust my list accordingly. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantia) is a great choice, and one that I have experience growing. It has thick, velvety leaves and spreads into an attractive ground cover. It even has a pretty purple bloom! I also chose Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), which blooms feather-soft in the fall,  globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), which has a bright papery bloom, and a few mint plants, which give off a lovely smell and flavor when touched. (Note: mint is inclined to go wild under favorable conditions. I planted mine in a pot which I submerged in the ground to reduce those tendencies.) Leave a little room open in the budget for getting new ideas once you get to the nursery, and consider a few inexpensive annuals to fill out your garden with colorful blooms. Your kids can help you pick out some plants that they find interesting, as well – however, you’ll want to be mindful not to buy anything overly toxic. This is often noted on the plant’s information tag.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)
Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Plants grow best in soil that has organic matter mixed in. The easiest way to achieve this is to dig your bed and mix the dirt with compost. Your children can help by using a scoop or a pot to pour compost onto the dirt as you turn it, or by using a trowel or small shovel to turn one corner of the bed. Once your dirt is prepared, you and your kids can dig holes for the new plants, pre-watering the holes, spreading the roots a bit as you pull them out of the pot, and depositing them in their new homes. Watering in the plants is also, not surprisingly, a very popular pastime in my garden.

fairy furniture
Fairies throw parties in our little garden every night after bedtime.

If you have some space and are interested in adding a visual element to your garden, you might consider adding a fairy garden. I found a local nursery that sells inexpensive fairy furniture, but you and your kids can make your own fairy decorations, as well. Consider painting a rock or a pinecone and leaving it as art for your garden’s faeries to enjoy! Place a marble in the ground as a gazing ball. If you have older kids, they might enjoy building and painting small wooden structures (like you might find at a craft store), or even making their own with twigs and bark. You’re limited only by your imagination!

Keep your plan a little flexible. Let your kids have as much control as is feasible over the placement of items in your new garden, even if it doesn’t match your mental image. With my three year olds, their attention span runs low before the work runs out, so I can do a little bit of editing to their work, but this is a shared space for us, and I want the final product to reflect that. Ultimately, if you’re gardening with kids, the final garden is secondary to the process of creating it.

Garden in progress.
Our work in progress.