- How Much Land Do You Need to Homestead? From Gardens to Livestock - May 12, 2023
- How I Built a Large Rabbit Hutch for Under $30 in 2023 - April 10, 2023
- How to Homestead with Toddlers - April 3, 2023
Homesteading and parenting a toddler are both difficult but rewarding endeavors all on their own– together, you’ve got a recipe for pure magic, trailed by the accompanying overwhelm and exhaustion. Starting a homestead with toddlers is a wild ride for sure.
But we don’t really need to cover the magic of it; that will unfold right before your eyes without our help. Seeing your children learn about sustainability, nature, and the value of hard work while cultivating life skills like gardening, cooking, baking, and living off the land is awe-inspiring. And don’t even get me started on the beautiful bonds they’ll develop with your livestock!
All that aside, though, the nitty gritty of homesteading with toddlers is that it’s tough; it takes patience, perseverance, problem-solving skills, thoughtful planning, and some creativity. My kids are now four years old and two-and-a-half years old, meaning I’ve only got a few months left of having toddlers on my homestead (because in six months, I will officially have two “small children”).
Here are some of my best tips, tricks, and advice for homesteading with toddlers. I really hope they help you out!
Find Ways for Them to “Help” You on the Homestead
I see so much advice to get your kids involved and have them help you, and while that’s great advice for older kids, it has a completely different meaning with toddlers and infants.
Help from a toddler is filled with joy and good intentions, but the speed and execution of the task are enough to make you cry. Getting a toddler to help is all about making them feel involved and needed, while teaching them life skills, getting a lesson in patience for yourself, and perhaps you getting a little bit of the homestead chore finished on your own.
Here are a few examples of this that frequently happen around my house:
- Splitting wood. We use axes, mauls, and sledges with wedges– no wood splitter machines here. For this task, I set my kids up with big wooden hammers about fifteen to twenty feet away from my splitting operation. They smack wood chunks, roll firewood around, and throw it in all directions while my husband and I are busy splitting wood. We also gave them small toy chainsaws, which they happily use to mimic us as we work.
- Folding laundry. The laundry never seems to end on a homestead! My two-year-old loves to roll up the washrags for me while I roll bath towels. Sometimes I secretly go behind him and properly roll them; sometimes, I put his messily rolled cloths in the clean bin as they are and call it a day.
- Sweeping up loose hay and straw. My toddlers love to clean up with the broom and dust pan, but it can be borderline painful to watch them work a broom and dustpan. Sometimes they do a good job; sometimes they make an even bigger mess than when they started. It’s all part of the learning process. Vacuuming is the same way. We occasionally vacuum up dust surrounding the woodstove and tops of the baseboards; I usually let the kids do that first, then I go in later to get whatever they missed.
Figure out what they like and lean into that. Be patient, and try to remember that you are teaching them skills that they will use for a lifetime.
“Baby” Wear Around the Homestead
Those baby backpacks and wraps are still useful well after your sweet baby’s first birthday. Learn how to tie your wrap so they can ride on your back, because they probably won’t be able to ride on your front very well.
While every child is different, many enjoy the closeness and the ride. It’s also a great way for you to build your strength and endurance (an asset as a homesteader) while they bond with you and catch super cozy naps.
Use Naps and Wagons or Baby Monitors to Your Fullest Advantage
On that note, use their naptime to the fullest extent. Now I managed to have two kiddos who refuse to nap no matter what, but most people have toddlers who do nap. You can put them in a stroller, a wagon, on a blanket on the ground in the shade, or even put them in their bed with a baby monitor for you to carry around your homestead. I’ve even been known to set a kiddo in the back of a (stationary!!) ATV trailer for a quick nap.
If your kids are good about taking consistent naps, that could earn you a few “free” hours for you to get lots of work done around your place. Today, we even have access to motion-sensing cameras. You can look at their sleepy faces anytime you want or get notified the second they start moving around. Homesteading in 2023 certainly has its perks!
Use this time wisely. Catch a nap, a shower, or do some of the homestead tasks that are otherwise too difficult to pull off when your little one is nearby, like running a chainsaw or quickly processing a few rabbits or chickens for your freezer.
Parallel Play on Your Homestead
This is one of my favorite homestead hacks as a toddler parent! Figure out ways to make it easy for your kids to play near you as you get your work done.
Here are a few real-life examples I have used:
- When my husband and I built our woodshed, we made a giant mudpuddle close by using a bare patch of soil and a garden hose. Our kids ran through it, laid down in it, splashed, made mud castles, and covered their faces and clothes in the goop. They rolled around and had the time of their lives while Devin and I were free to get our woodshed up and covered with almost no interruptions. Afterward, the kids went in the bathtub while their clothes ran through the washing machine.
- While I built my rabbit hutch in the winter, I gave my two and four-year-old kids a sled each and a shallow hill for them to climb and sled. It was the perfect combination of just steep enough to be fast, but not so much that they couldn’t carry their own sled up it with ease.
- In the summers when I garden, I first tried letting my kids pull weeds with me. I quickly learned that they didn’t understand the difference between weeds and vegetables. I switched them over to a water play table some days, and a garden hose and a muddy corner of the garden on other days. Basically, when in doubt, give your kids water and mud.
- When we drive out into our woods or the neighboring national forest (with a permit) to collect firewood, we bring our kids’ Stryder bikes, scooters, a ball, and a picnic basket. My son even has a toy chainsaw that I think he has run for over 100 hours. They have those items to rotate through, plus they love to play in gravel piles and sawdust shavings. You’d be amazed by the fun and games that small kids can create when they’re given a moment to be bored, especially if you have more than one kid.
- When I muck out the goat barn or chicken coop, I give my kids buckets and small scoop shovels. They go into the woodshed (which is mere feet away from the goat and chicken buildings) to scoop up little pieces of bark and sawdust from the floor. After I unload a wheelbarrow of manure, I carry their full bucket into the animal shelter, where they get to dump it on the ground and gleefully kick it around.
- A lot of times in the summer, I will move my little tasks to beside their sandbox. They can play in that while I read, build small projects, work out, or make plans for the homestead. It’s also a great spot for me to zone out for a minute and enjoy the sunshine for a minute without much interruption.
Move Homestead Projects To Your Front and Back Doors
Small children love running in and out of the house. So whenever you can, set up your projects right by your most often-used door. This lets you watch your kids whether they’re playing in the yard, on the porch, or in your living room.
My kids know how to take their shoes on and off as they switch from the indoors and outdoors, which has made this 100% easier for me as a parent. If your kids don’t know how to handle shoes just yet, this one may not work as well for you.
Another option is to move your projects to a garage or barn whenever possible, especially if it’s relatively child-proof and safer for them to freely play within. A fenced-in play yard is another huge advantage you may have (I’m only a little jealous!).
Adjust Your Expectations
Remember that your little one is only a toddler for two short years.
You may have to temporarily downgrade or shift your daily chores during this time. The key is to remember that it is very temporary, and just because you’re pushing pause right now doesn’t mean that it’s forever stopped. I know it’s hard to let go, but I can assure you this is just a season.
For me, horses have always played a massive role in my life and are my greatest passion. But when I was halfway through pregnancy with my oldest baby, my mare passed away at age 29. I made the difficult grown-up decision to not get another horse until I was finished having kids, and my kids are “old enough” for me to have the time to spend with horses again. My youngest is now two and a half, and we are building a horse barn on our new homestead this summer.
Whatever your “horses” are, just be assured that they won’t be gone forever, and try to remember that raising your precious babies is very important and worthy of this time in your life.
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule As Needed
You’ll probably have to alter your lifestyle and schedule as you enter toddlerhood with a homestead.
For some, this means getting a full night’s sleep and then working during naptime.
For others, it could mean getting up early before your toddlers rise and going to bed early.
And for some, it could mean you sleep in late but get a lot of your work done after dark when your kids are asleep.
This is not something you can really plan before your child is here. I love mornings, but no matter how quiet I am, my kids always somehow know when I’m up early and will join me. If I need time without them, I have to put them to sleep and then I can usually successfully sneak away to do whatever I need.
Just do whatever you can to adjust and make things work to the very best of your abilities here.
Prioritize Your Health As Much As Possible
While we’re on the topic of sleep, let’s talk health too.
As a new parent, you’re probably not getting enough sleep as it is. This sleep deprivation is likely compounded by certain homesteading events, like kidding, lambing, or calving. You may also have a job or side hustle to help you fund this lifestyle, which will also take away your precious sleep time.
Unfortunately, I think that’s just an inevitable part of this chapter of life. Now with that said, it doesn’t mean that your overall health has to suffer.
Whenever you can, eat healthily, move your body, and drink lots of water.
I know, I know, you already have a lot to juggle; I completely understand. But I have to admit that my energy levels rose significantly when I started working out, eating home-cooked meals, and drinking more water. I write 50k words a week for work while managing my household, homesteading, and raising our two kids; some nights, I only get a couple of hours of sleep, and some nights I don’t get to sleep at all.
It’s not healthy, and I am absolutely not glorifying “hustle culture,” but it’s just a phase of life I’m in (I like to believe that in a future chapter, I’ll get to sleep fourteen hours or more on those long winter nights). But even with all the sleep I’m missing, I still feel pretty darn good, and I have to credit that to movement, good food, and plenty of water.
If I could take a nap during the day, I totally would, but my kids no longer nap. I do not feel comfortable sleeping when they’re awake, but I do feel fine working out while I’m watching them.
It’s certainly not a cure-all for everyone, but I feel that it would be a disservice not to recommend at least trying to do better for your body.
Take Time To See Your Community
So if you’re used to living in close quarters with your neighbors, you’re probably under the assumption that moving into the country will absolve you of the need to interact with your neighbors. That is superrrr wrong. The more rural your area, the more you’ll need to connect with your neighbors for your sake and theirs.
I’m incredibly lucky to have a community playgroup set up for kids Zero to Five years old. A local mama initiated it when my oldest was three years old, and it has been amazing for everyone’s mental and emotional health. We meet at our town’s community hall for two hours once a week. She sets up toys, books, activity tables, healthy snacks for the kids, and delicious hot teas for the adults. Even though our area has fewer than 500 people, it’s common to see twenty kids running around and having a blast.
Our local homeschool co-op is also active, and I had no idea how strong (and essential) those are in rural areas. Even though your kids are not school-age, there is probably an amazing community of young parents just like you tucked away on a Facebook group in your area.
Even just making an effort to go to your nearest playground regularly (even if it’s just behind the local elementary school) can get you and your little ones the connection you need.
Other great ways to find people like you:
- Library reading time.
- Farmer’s markets.
- Baby Friendly Screenings (if you have a nearby movie theater).
- Apps like Peanut, Hello Mamas, Mom Life, Dadapp, Moms MeetUp, and Meetup.
- Community events like rodeos, quilt shows, parades, historical society events, fundraisers, and more.
- Make an effort to meet other homesteaders in general. It’s very easy to fall into the mindset trap that you need to find adults with kids your kid’s age– you don’t! No one showers a child with love and support quite like an adult with grown kids (and grandkids) of their own. Plus, they probably have a wealth of wisdom to drop on you too.
- CSAs– Community Shared Agriculture groups are another fantastic way to meet fellow homesteaders and farmers too.
Invest in Kind Animals
I know everyone has their different methods of doing things, but I am profoundly “anti-aggressive-animal.” It costs just as much to feed a kind animal as it does a nasty one, so stick to the gentle ones.
Mean rooster? Into the stock pot.
A rabbit who wants to bite and scratch? Now a throw pillow.
Huffy bull? Not here, off to the freezer you go.
Kicking horse? He can go to someone else’s barn.
I put up with a lot of aggressive creatures before I had kids, but it’s no longer worth the risk to me. I have to protect my little ones, but also myself and my husband. If one of us adults get hurt, it makes it that much more difficult for us to run this place and be good parents.
On that note, I’ve also KEPT more animals than I intended because of their good nature. My plan was to breed my doe Daisy to Eugene a few times and then butcher or sell him. Well, Eugene, who my kids call “Hoochie” because they can’t pronounce his name, is incredibly sweet with my kids while beating the sense out of stray dogs, especially when they get too close to the other goats. Because of that, Eugene has a home here for life.
Not only are gentle animals a joy to work with, but they end up producing more docile friends for you and your kids to enjoy. As breeders, even if our animals aren’t registered or pedigreed, it’s wise to develop better-minded livestock.
Try Letting Go Of Schedules
If you haven’t figured it out yet, parenthood throws almost every aspect of your life off-kilter, at least a little bit. Schedules and routines are no exception, especially when you’re running a homestead.
Try to lean into this and accept changes as they come. You will probably have to try a bunch of minor differences until you find methods and timeframes that work best for you and your family.
An amazing way to embrace this change on your homestead is to automate as much of your life as possible. Did you know that there are inexpensive automatic chicken doors on the market now? And automatic feeders and waterers? They’re like gifts from the gods. Now if you can’t find your baby wrap or your toddler is having a meltdown because their boots feel funny, it’s not the end of the world if it takes you longer to get outside– your animals are still on schedule and well-cared for.
And while I won’t go into too much detail here, because it should be its own post, look into forage-only diets for applicable species. This lets you give your animals free-choice pasture or hay without making them too dependent on you and your grain schedule. It’s not for everyone, and every animal is different, but it can be wildly beneficial in the right applications.
Try Time Blocking
On the flip side of the coin, time blocking is another great tool to keep in your pocket as a homesteading parent.
It’s easy to get sucked into feeling overwhelmed by all your tasks as a parent and homesteader–each role can be a lot all on its own, and combining the two is sometimes cripplingly heavy.
To get started with time blocking, it is important first to identify your priorities and goals. What are the most important things you need to accomplish each? Once you have a clear idea of your priorities, you can begin to block out time for each task.
An Example of Time Blocking
For example, you might block out time first thing in the morning for taking care of your children– getting them dressed, fed, cleaned up, and giving them some attention. Me personally, I like to let my kids play together in the livingroom while I make breakfast. The breakfast usually consists of banana pancakes, eggs, sausage, fruit bowls, or oats. I always take the extra time to grind coffee beans and have one good cup of black coffee in the morning.
Next, you may move on to your farm or homestead work for a few hours. They can parallel play while you do this, help you out, take a nap nearby, or catch a ride in a wagon or stroller.
After lunch, you might block out time for outside work or other errands, followed by more time for family activities in the evening. You can also block out time for self-care activities like exercise or hobbies. Every day is a little bit different depending on how much writing I need to do, and how much I have to do outside. On easy outdoor days, I may only be outside for thirty minutes once in the morning and once at night. On more strenuous days, we may be outside from sun up to sun down, only taking breaks to eat a quick sandwich. That’s the beauty of homesteading and working from home, you can change everything around to suit your needs every day.
You can get really strict with time blocking, or you can use it as a casual tool that you use as needed. My preference is the latter, but with daily reminder alarms to keep me on track and aware of the time.
There are a few set things that always happen every weekday:
- We always have breakfast right after waking up.
- I always drop everything I’m doing at 2 or 4 pm (I have two alarms that go off) to lift weights and work out. This helps me stay strong, it’s a “hard reset” for my emotions, so I’m an emotionally stable parent, and it shows our kids that health is important.
- I always go walk on my treadmill at my desk and write sometime after lunch; this keeps me on top of my digital tasks and shows my kids that work is part of life (even if it doesn’t “look” or “feel” like work.)
- My kids always get at least 30 minutes of my undivided attention every day, usually playing, reading books, or sometimes just sitting in the rocking chair quietly. This time flies by so fast, and I want them to know they are my greatest priority.
- My kids always see me read something at least once a day. Sometimes its a physical book, newspaper, or magazine; sometimes, it’s a few articles or blog posts. Usually, I do this casually as we eat breakfast together (of course, taking the time to talk and interact with the toddlers), but not always. This keeps me on top of things and shows my kids that we value education and reading.
- We visit the livestock at least twice daily for check-ins, feed, and water. Sometimes it’s a lot more than that, but always once in the morning and once in the evening.
One of the greatest assets for time blocking I’ve found is to set alarms as reminders. It’s way too easy for me to get sidetracked and lose track of time; these alarms are great ways to snap back to reality and stay on top of my priority list.
Oh, and lists! Keep a running list of chores that you need to do, preferably somewhere digital, so it’s easy to move them around as needed and prioritize them from most to least important. Sometimes when you step out the door, you just forget what you were supposed to do, or you get sidetracked by the closest chore rather than going for the most urgent one. If you tend to lose or forget these lists, try taking a screenshot and setting it as your lock screen so you can’t forget.
Take Shifts With Your Spouse, Friend, or Family Members
Not everyone has this luxury, but if you do and you feel comfortable enlisting the help of others, then do it.
For many, the most obvious choice is childcare, but there are other options too, like:
- Mowing the lawn or bailing hay
- Mucking stalls
- Cutting firewood
- Washing clothes or dishes
- Straightening up the house
- Processing animals
- Hunting (a lot of people are happy to hunt on your land in exchange for giving you the meat) \
- Repairs on clothing, machinery, vehicles, or outbuildings
You may find some amazing people who want to help you out of the goodness of their hearts with nothing in return. They understand those early struggles of parenthood and just want to be a blessing to you.
Others may be struggling too but still want to help out. For those situations, consider doubling up and swapping chores or activities. This is extra helpful if you’re neighbors!
For example, one of you may do laundry for both houses while the other doubles their recipes to feed both families. Or one of you may do morning chores for both homesteads while the other takes the evening homestead chores.
Maybe one weekend, you take all of the kids for a day or two, and next weekend they take all of the kids for an equal amount of time.
And if there are more than two of you, life just got much easier! With three or more participating people, tasks are so much easier to share and care for.
Figure out what each of you prefers, and then use your strengths to benefit you both (or the lot of you if you’re lucky). Your homestead does not have to be closed off or fully self-sufficient– in many ways, it is better to be community-sufficient instead!
Find Fun “Open-Ended” Outdoor Toys
Sprinklers, sleds, scooters, shovels, bikes, excavators, water stations or kiddy pools, toy cars, and animals are all great starting places. But of course, sticks, rocks, leaves, and “junk” like wooden chairs, broken buckets, boards, old wooden spoons, and washtubs can be a lot of fun too. You’ll be surprised by how well small children can occupy themselves with the most ordinary items.
Make Other Aspects of Your Life Simple
A lot of homesteading and child-rearing is complicated and time-consuming, and that is perfectly fine. There’s really a lot of joy that hides in these everyday mundane moments too, so don’t miss out.
But that doesn’t stop the fact that you are probably exhausted and overwhelmed, which is why you should do whatever you can to simplify the other areas of your life, whenever possible. Here are some of the most prominent ones.
Meal Plan, Meal Prep, Double Meals, or Create a Menu
- Meal planning is deciding what you want to eat before it’s time to cook (usually a week or month in advance).
- Meal prepping is deciding what you want to eat and then making that meal in advance, then refrigerating it or freezing it for later.
- Double meals are just recipes that you double with the intention of putting the leftovers away in the freezer for a later, usually unspecified date. It’s a way of creating “instant” meals when you’re having a hard day.
- Homemade menus are just a list of foods that you typically have the ingredients on hand. You don’t have to preplan when you have the meal, but it really reduces your mental load by making it so you don’t have to remember all the foods you can make. For me, half the battle is remembering what I *CAN* make– the cooking is the easy part. Having a homemade menu reduces a lot of stress and anxiety for me.
Also, find some easy recipes that are healthy and relatively quick to create. Bonus points if they’re a “one pot” meal that makes very few dirty dishes.
Don’t worry; we plan on sharing some of these recipes with you soon!
Double Your Bedding
Perhaps everyone else already did this, but it took me forever to allow myself to own multiple sets of bedding. I was so intent on keeping my home as minimal as possible that I only kept one set of bedding per bed in my house. As soon as I allowed myself two, three, or even four sets of bedding per bed, life got so much easier. Toddlers make messes, spill drinks, sneak foods into bed, and have accidents– if you have several sets of linens, it’s so much easier to keep the bed made and looking tidy while the dirty set(s) are going through the wash and dry cycle.
If it were only adults in this house, one extra set would more than suffice, but with the chaos of little kids, multiples almost feel like a necessity now, and that’s okay.
Consider Using “Doom Baskets”
I cannot even begin to cover how much of a blessing KC Davis has been to parents all over the world, and I think all homestead parents should read her book “How to Keep House While Drowning.” It’s full of gentle advice for managing your emotions, home, and children in an effective, kind way. It also helps that she has a great sense of humor to keep things fun and interesting.
Doom stands for “didn’t organize, only moved,” and a doom basket (or box) is simply a space for holding all of your random items while they are waiting to be organized and put away later. It keeps the chaos reigned in while helping you feel more regulated. Cleaning goes so much faster, and it’s much less overwhelming to deal with a small basket or box of random items, rather than a room that has them scattered about.
As a homesteader, your doom baskets will probably be filled with random feed scoops, a left toddler boot, a muddy stuffed animal, a banana peel intended for the compost bin, and some mixing bowls your kids took from the kitchen while you were busy kneading bread. It’s all okay, it can be put away later on when you’ve got the time and headspace for it.
Generously Give Them Water and Outside Time
Two activities helped me survive the chaos of toddlerhood with my sanity mostly intact– water and outside time. Both are like hard reset buttons that always put my kids in better moods while giving me some semblance of a break.
Playing outside, even if it’s in the snow, grass, or a mud puddle, was a great one, but sometimes it wasn’t always practical. The temperatures can drop pretty low here, well below zero degrees, so when going outside wasn’t a strong option, I would run a tub of water for the kids. Sometimes they would play in the water twice a day, every day for a week. You don’t have to use soap every time; that can dry their skin out (and get in their eyes); water is enough.
A little hack that I stumbled upon was using a clear shower liner and no curtain. I could sit in the bathroom by them with the clear curtain closed. I got to watch my kids as they had fun and splashed around, but it kept me and the bathroom floor mostly dry. I was right there to keep them safe, but it felt like a little bit of a break, and it did us all a world of good.
When you go outside, let them explore as much as possible. If they need a bit of direction, try some of these:
- Ask them to bring you rocks from your yard (that will save your windows when you mow).
- Give them a basket and ask them to pick dandelions (you can make jelly from them later).
- Give them a basket and ask them to pick grass for you.
- Hand them a shovel and divert them to a bare patch in your yard or set them in a sandbox if you have one.
- Get them to help you find and pick up sticks from the yard.
- If they’re old enough to count, have them count trees, fence posts, rocks, animals, or outbuildings.
- Strip them down to diapers or old clothes and give them paints. They can paint paper, canvases, scrap wood, old sheets or blanket, rocks, or even themselves. Let them have fun.
- And of course, kiddie pools, shallow ponds, and shallow creeks are your friends– you can have all kinds of adventures there.
Use Screen Time As Needed
I know this is a controversial take, but I am all for screen time. Screens are a way for children to be safely exposed to diverse people, ideas, education, music, stories, and lifestyles.
Screens are also an integral part of our modern world, and I believe this will continue to ring true as our kids grow up. Allowing our children to use them lets them stay on track and be well-equipped to deal with the real world when they’re adults.
I like to pre-watch TV shows and pre-play games before handing them off to my kids. This makes sure that everything they see is developmentally appropriate and safe. I love to give my kids a good mix of “throwbacks” and modern pieces.
Some of our household favorites are:
- We Bare Bears
- The Adventures of Arthur
- Clifford the Big Red Dog
- The Berenstain Bears
- Curious George
I also give my four-year-old access to:
- Minecraft (local only, not online play)
- Disneyland Adventures
- The Unicorn Princess
Try Old and New Hobbies
New hobbies are usually the boost of serotonin you need to be a happy parent, so you have the patience and kindness to have a good day with your kids. This is your reset time.
Take your kids with you, go solo, or with a group of friends; just make sure you go!
Hobbies for Homesteaders to Try
- Needlework. This is a really broad subject that you’ll probably find something within it that you like. Mending clothes, making clothing, quilting, and embroidering are enjoyable, and you may be able to do them while watching your kids. Reupholstery is another strong skill to have.
- Hiking or jogging. Not only does this one keep you in great shape, but it can do a world of good for your homestead. Hiking helps you keep tabs on your surroundings (and fencing) and leads to hunting and foraging if you want.
- Horseback riding. This keeps you and your horses, mules, or donkeys in great shape while reaping all the benefits of hiking, like hunting and foraging. I particularly love this one because you cover a lot of miles relatively quickly, and it helps you regularly map out your surroundings. If you’re fortunate to live near a national forest or another type of public land, this is a great hobby to get into. You can also tie this into other productive activities like working and driving cattle, which is still alive and well in the western states.
- Lifting weights. This is another favorite of mine that I make time for five days a week. I have to be in good health to be a good mother and homesteader; this is a tool for that. It also makes my homestead-building projects go by much easier– not being as limited by my body is wildly gratifying and a real asset to have.
- Photography. Having a homestead lends you the unique opportunity to take some truly stunning photos. While we’re on the topic, check out what The Homestead Chronicle’s Kayla is up to in her photography business!
- Crocheting and knitting. I couldn’t do these around my toddlers when they were younger because they were too interested and got tangled up in the yarn– but I know several women with kids both younger and older than mine who never had any issues. It’s worth a try if it interests you.
- Reading. You can learn so much from books, both fiction and nonfiction, as a homesteader. Try to get a good mix of both– you’ll be amazed at how relaxing it is while being equally educational (and entertaining).
- Tanning hides/making pelts. You can use these for your own use, or sell them for a profit. Most homesteaders are already harvesting animals like cattle, deer, rabbits, or even bears– don’t let the pelt or leather go to waste!
- Leatherwork. You can use leather, hides, or pelts to create amazing works of art, clothing, and homesteading tools like rifle slings, saddles, or knife holders.
- Blacksmithing. You can create lots of useful tools for your homestead, or do a massive service for your equine and community if you combine it with becoming a farrier.
- Woodworking. This is perfect as a hobby on its own, or it can be a pretty lucrative side hustle.
- Jewelry making.
- Arts, like painting, drawing, glass crafting, pottery, or wood carving.
- Writing. You can journal, blog, write a book, tell amazing stories, or even turn this into a career.
- Beekeep. This helps your garden, and your community, creates amazing products like honey and beeswax, and leads to other fun hobbies like candle or soap making.
- Make candles or soap. Use these for your homestead, or sell them to people in your community (or online). Candles and soap are necessities that feel downright luxurious, which is why so many of us just adore these handmade products.
- Train dairy animals. If you have the gift of training goats or cattle to stand still and tolerate being milked, you can share this with others while making a decent source of income. Not everyone (myself included) is good at teaching dairy animals to stand to be milked. I would have LOVED to outsource this one to someone else!
- Train dogs. You can raise and train dogs for many applications, all of which are beneficial in different ways. One of the most prominently homestead-related though is teaching livestock guardian dogs how to do their jobs.
- Antiquing and upcycling. I think you can piece together how this hobby can help your homestead out while also saving money.
- Reloading ammo. This is one of my husband’s hobbies that is very satisfying to do and watch. It takes a bit of equipment to get into, and you should be cautious to follow instructions carefully so it’s safe, but it has great potential to bring you lots of joy while saving you money.
- Search and rescue/forestry work. These are not really child-friendly, but if you have the ability to take time away from the kids, this is a great way to get in some adventure and excitement on your own while really helping out your community.
- Developing recipes. Of course baking and cooking are great hobbies, but so is creating brand-new recipes! I occasionally do this for some of my writing clients, and it is truly a joy to work on.
- Drying or preserving flowers. This is a great way to keep your home feeling cheery all year long, and it would be easy to turn into a side business if you wanted.
- Hunting and fishing.
- Kayaking, swimming, canoeing, rafting.
Get Rid of Your Procrastination Monster
I used to be so awful when it came to procrastinating, but that went away shortly after combining homesteading and raising kids. I don’t know if I finally felt fulfilled enough with my lifestyle to have the strength to get things done or if it was out of necessity, but wow, it has really improved my life in so many ways. I strongly feel that it has made me a better parent too.
Try tackling the toughest problems first, and then work your way to the easier ones. You’ll quickly pick up tracking while feeling really satisfied with yourself.
Executive function is key to juggling kids and a homestead; the sooner you can figure out how to motivate and discipline yourself to get things done, the better life will be for absolutely everyone.
How to Make It Easier to Not Procrastinate
Think About The Results You’ll Get
Homesteading is so rewarding because the results are VERY obvious and usually highly gratifying (even if they aren’t instant). Sometimes this is all the motivation you need to get started. And if you’re like me, starting is half the battle (I am so sorry if you’re the type who can initiate easily but struggles to finish up!).
Set “One Big Thing” Per Day
Choose something for you to do every day of the week. You can preplan this at the beginning of the week, a month, or even a year ahead. Sometimes having one big idea per day is enough to make it easy to start and feel the strength you need to get it done.
Sometimes the pressure of “falling behind” and having “two big things tomorrow” is enough for you to stay on top of your work. It definitely helps me out.
Set “No Matter What’s”
“No matter what’s” were briefly covered in the time-blocking section. But these are chores or activities that have to happen every single day. For my family they are the following:
- 2-3 meals a day
- One workout every day
- Walking at my desk treadmill while I write
- 30 minutes of my undivided attention with the kids every day
- Checking and feeding livestock once in the morning and once in the evening– sometimes more.
If you struggle to remember your “no matter what’s,” consider setting reminder alarms until you develop the habit.
Make Fewer Decisions Every Day
It’s overwhelming to make so many choices, all day, every day, forever, and ever. Whenever you can, get rid of the decisions. Some easy ways for you do this are the following:
- Pare down your wardrobe, or make it easy to choose clothing. Capsule wardrobes are great, and that’s what I typically rely on. If you have a lot more clothes that don’t intrinsically match up without thought, consider pairing them up in advance and then cycling through them on routine.
- Eat the same meals every day, meal plan, meal prep, or fall back on a default home menu that you made.
- Break down your tasks or goals into tiny actionable steps. Once you have this determined, it’s easy to “mindlessly” follow the steps without having to make any more decisions.
- Make choices easier by picturing what you want out of life, what is best for you, and what will advance your goals the fastest. Sure, you still have to make choices, but the answer should be easier to find this way.
- Declutter your life every way you can. The act of reducing what you have and simplifying your life is intense and takes a lot of energy and brainpower, but once it’s done, you’ve set yourself up for much easier living in the future.
Really Lean into The Kid-Friendly Homestead Activities
You may have to temporarily let go of some more complex homesteading activities, but you may find yourself with the time to try new ones. Here are some of the simplest activities that work for our toddlers on the homestead (and why I think they’re so good).
Foraging is a simple walk through fields and forests at your leisure. You can wear your toddler, let them walk beside you, or they can ride in a wagon or stroller.
Kids naturally love inspecting plants, rocks, trees, and whatever they find on the ground, and that’s basically what foraging is. Once your kiddo is about two years old, they’ll start to spot and identify different plant species, especially berries, and mushrooms, with ease. Once you hit this age, you’ve got another set of eyes that’s closer to the ground and will probably notice flora you wouldn’t be able to see on your own.
It was humbling and exciting the very first time my toddler pointed out an entire patch of wild raspberries I had completely glossed over. Because of this, foraging is my all-time favorite homestead activity to do with toddlers.
Cooking and Baking
You don’t have to let your little ones dip out flour or crack open eggs (though that is a lot of fun for them), but something as simple as letting them stir or tell you which ingredient to put in next can do them a world of good.
You’re already cooking and baking every day anyway; getting them involved creates core memories for both of you; it’s fun for them, and it’s a fantastic lesson that will keep them engaged and happy to be home with you.
Every child is different, of course, but I’ve noticed that my kids are far less curious about what’s in the pantry when they have regular chances to be involved in the kitchen with me. This leads to fewer sneaks into the cabinets and fewer flour-related messes for me to clean up!
I love feeding the critters with my kids. In the winter, it can be quite a chore to get everyone dressed, but once that’s over, it’s great to be outside in fresh air, around our animals. It does a lot of good for creatures and children to be together, learning from one another and desensitizing themselves together. My goats, especially, have learned patience and tolerance, and my kids have learned to respect the animals, slow down, and be quieter.
Since the kids are such a large part of this, I greatly advocate for only keeping pleasant animals around. Bullies find new homes or end up in the freezer!
This is another one of those life chores that probably happens every single day at your house. Get your kids involved, let them help, and help them develop a positive attitude toward cleaning.
While they do need some coaxing to pick up their toys, my kids really don’t mind helping me sweep, mop, sort clothes, wash dishes, or straighten up boots and coats by the door.
Remember to be patient because doing this right can set your child up to view household tasks as a necessary yet joyful part of life.
Walking Property Boundaries
I will admit that this one was a bit of a challenge for me, especially here on our new homestead. I had trouble walking around well right after my second c-section, and being in the woods alone with my kids was a bit nerve-wracking, thanks to the grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, lynx, and wolves. I have gained confidence over time, though, and I always carry protection when I take them outside with me.
Now they love walking the paths, looking at trees, checking for newly fallen trees, checking fences, and seeing animal tracks. They usually pick up lots of sticks and rocks along the way too, which is just part of the process.
Other good alternatives are to walk on roadsides, sidewalks, or trails. If you have a good relationship with your neighbors, you may be allowed to walk some of their private trails too. And if you don’t have a good relationship with them, try cultivating one– it’s invaluable for both parties!
I found that gardening was a bit difficult with really young toddlers because they can’t tell the difference between an unwanted weed and an expensive vegetable plant, but seed bombing is kinda perfect.
While trying to develop my wildflower field, I gave my kids handfuls of flower seeds and let them throw them into the wind. It didn’t matter where the seeds landed, and my kids had a blast.
Now that they’re older, it’s getting much easier to garden with them, and accidents happen much less frequently.
Egg collection is a great activity because it’s such a rewarding and gratifying experience for small kids. They know that they are helping you, and getting to cook with these eggs (especially for breakfast) is so much fun for little ones.
Plus, the kids quickly understand that eggs are fragile and they need to be careful with them. It’s one of the few breakable objects your kids can accidentally break without any real issue. They learn so much and gain a lot of confidence in the process.
And really, few things in life are as gratifying as seeing your kids do something that they’re so proud of, like bringing in a really fragile egg from your backyard coop.
Catching Small and/or Gentle Livestock
Yeah.. this one is less about productivity and more about wearing your kiddo out when they need to get some energy burned up.
Regardless, as long as you teach your kids to be gentle, it desensitizes your animals and entertains your kids. If you haven’t spent much time with livestock, you’re in for a real treat when you see the amazing bonds that your kids and animals develop together.
Once your kids have caught the critter, they need something to do to reward the animal for allowing your toddler to catch it. My favorite way to make it up to them is by giving your kiddo a brush or softer comb and letting them groom the animal. The animals will get easier to catch, and your toddlers will learn how to be gentle and take good care of livestock.
Milking Goats or Cows
My daughter was only three when she milked a goat for the first time. Once I had it figured out and the goat settled down, I simply handed her a small mason jar and let her try. It took her less than a minute to do just as well as I did.
Of course, I think having Nigerian Dwarfs made this process much easier than, say, a Jersey cow or a larger goat breed. Her hands fit perfectly, and she was so gentle with her Daisy goat.
Now every time we get milk out of the fridge, she has to ask which animal it came from, and she’s always proud to tell people that she knows how to get milk all on her own.
Watering Plants or Filling Water Troughs
If you need to keep toddlers entertained, give them a water hose. They can water plants, fill water troughs, make a sprinkler, or a mud puddle, or just gleefully shriek and chase each other all over the yard. If the weather allows them to get wet without much issue, let it happen. They have a lot of fun, and it lets them feel like they’re helping you (and soon they will be!).
Final Thoughts on Homesteading with Toddlers
Homesteading with toddlers is no easy feat, but it is abundantly rewarding for you, your kids, and your homestead.
If you’re in this phase of life (or you’ve closed that chapter), please share some of your best tips and tricks in the comments, or better yet– share this article on your favorite social media and share your best ideas there too.
Got an idea you want us to cover? Please reach out; we would love to hear from you!