PHOTO: Bonnie Von Dohre
Are you the proud parent of a nursing baby or a lively toddler? Have you wondered how to get the farm chores done and still keep your little ones safe? Here are a few ideas to try out for different situations.
Farming With A Nursing Baby
Carrying a nursing baby around while lifting hay bales or milking a cow is not safe for your baby or your back. The easiest way to keep baby safe while you do your work is to have a stroller that is sturdy and willing to roll over the uneven ground of a pasture or barn floor. Typically, jogging strollers do well because they’re designed to stay balanced on uneven terrain. The neat bonus of using a stroller around the farm is that it can carry equipment, like diapers, snacks and even garden tools.
If you to carry your baby, look for baby sling or carrier models that allow you to carry him or her on your back while you do farm work. Ergo brand and several other wraps can be fitted for your back and just take a little practice to put on quickly. A baby carrier designed for backpacking is also an option. These packs usually sit higher on your back so baby can see their surroundings better, have sun covers that fit over the baby’s head and have storage compartments for diapers.
Farm Chores With Toddlers
You spend so many months teaching your baby to walk and then, all of sudden, he can! Bonnie of “The Not So Modern Housewife” notes that her son has been “free range” from the time he could walk. Farm chores get so much trickier once your baby is mobile, but keeping them safe while you work is possible with some creativity.
Portable Containment Options
The obvious choice is a portable playpen that can be equipped with a few toys, stored when not in use and easily cleaned. If the day is hot or the bugs are out, a crib sheet or piece of netting can be placed over the top of the playpen to keep your baby comfortable. You can also affix a battery-operated fan to the side or top of the pen for especially hot days.
Johnny-Jump-Ups and saucer-type seats can also be of use if you’re not moving around too much. Jumping seats require a suitable door frame to hang from, and saucer-type toys can be unwieldy to pick up. Still, if you’re on the porch shelling peas or in the yard harvesting carrots, these products can be helpful.
An improvised play area can be constructed out of baby gates and a soft blanket placed on dry ground when the weather is good. A pop-up canopy overhead can provide needed shade. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those big, round bale feeders on your farm, you can pop junior in there with some toys. If you have a clean, unused stall in your barn, it can become a playroom during chore time. A city parent might have apoplexy at the thought of their kiddo playing in dirt where a cow might have been, but farm and homestead children live and breathe dirt. Be smart about keeping the play area clean, but any place in your barn that’s dry and safe will do just fine.
If you’re out in the pasture or hanging the laundry, you can do what many a farm mother has done before and use a soft harness and some rope to keep your toddler close. You can purchase commercial harnesses for young children with a leash attached or you can make your own. Tied to a nearby fence, in-ground stake or even the laundry line, you can keep your child nearby but still allow them some freedom to move and play. If you attach the rope to the actual laundry line, it can act like a zip line, though, that may wear down your lines quickly. Do not, of course, leave a child unattended, as he can become entangled in the ropes.
Find A Sitter
If there are truly messy, poopy or moldy chores that need to be done, I suggest you wait until another adult is home to take care of baby before you attempt those. Very young immune systems can be fragile, and you want to be sure that your baby is away from heavy equipment and herds of large animals.
Age-Appropriate Farm Chores
If your child is old enough to walk, he may be old enough for a farm chore of his own. With help, even a 2- or 3-year-old can collect eggs and toss treats to livestock from behind a fence.