I have an almost 3 year-old. We're in the country and have a big vegetable garden and my husband and I are big outdoors people. Our son enjoys being out there with us and we're happy to think we will raise a gardener! But he wants to "taste" everything! I have to watch him constantly, constantly telling him, No! don't eat that, or needing to slap something out of his hand before it gets to his mouth. It's spoiling being outside and I am miserable.
How do I teach him that some of what grows is good to eat, just not all of it.
How will he learn not to eat something dangerous?! What can I do? When he was younger, we had him in a back or front-pack but he loves to run around!
From: Rural Gal from NJ
Dear Rural Gal,
This is a stage, it'll pass, I promise, but in the meantime, you are right, someone needs to be vigilant at all times to make sure he doesn't ingest something dangerous. Perhaps you and your husband can take turns being that person glued to his side so you each get the time you want in the garden. Slapping it out of his hand on the way to the mouth isn't the way to go except in emergency. Anticipate what he's pulling/picking up from the ground and gently but firmly stop his hand from going to the mouth, telling him simply, "No," or, "This is not food." Distract him by handing him something else. Try not to be panicked or frustrated. Accept that this season, this is just part of your job description.
It sounds like you also need to enclose an area where he can play safely and where you know there's no mushrooms or poison ivy or whatever that he can pluck. A little grass in the mouth? So what. (You don't mention that he's eating dirt because that can be a serious issue, although there are some who say even dirt may not be all that bad.)
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