Friday Five: 5 Outdoor Jobs I ACTUALLY enjoy doing with my kids

I love yard work and landscaping.  The smell of dirt, sweat, new lumber, freshly watered grass, fertilizer, and gasoline (I’m sure putting those words next to each other got me on a list somewhere) mix together creating this aroma that is both energizing and relaxing.

I don’t know why I love it so much – I complain about having to spend time doing it. But something about the memories of my grandfather teaching me to mow at a very young age and the ability to see instant progress in a job you’re working on is the right mixture of nostalgia and motivation to make me excited to be out there.

When we moved from Oklahoma City to Lubbock three years ago, we bought a nice, small house that needed a lot of love.  The house is in a wonderful neighborhood and is completely safe to live in, but the home inspector described it as “as a great house that really just needs a big hug!” So here we are three years later with a list of projects as long as my arm that we are trying to cross off while we also raising a team of permanent giggling, screaming distractions.  We are thoroughly enjoying shaping and “hugging” our home, but don’t those home improvement projects ALWAYS take longer than you think they will?

The front AND back yard are on that laundry list of projects and each has multiple little sub-jobs too.  Grind out the front stump, trim and shape the bushes and trees, build a flower bed, get actual grass to grow in both yards, etc. The people who owned the house before us helped the grass situation by parking their cars IN the front yard and by completely neglecting the back yard EXCEPT to dig a crudely fashioned fire pit – so it is a bit of an uphill battle at the moment.

We also have two very large, wonderful dogs.  They are great pets that get to spend most of their time inside with us but they stay outside when we are gone.  When they get REALLY bored or need to send me a message they do so in the form of holes (they would make GREAT co-stars for Shia LaBeouf). So every year I spend time filling holes, leveling them out, and leaving enough dog poop on top that hopefully they’ll quit digging there.

cora close

Cora and Hank during our 1st safety lesson

This season of yard work started early because we did NOT have a winter, but it has already been one of my favorites.  Cora and Hank really want to be involved while I’m outside and I truly appreciate their desire to help (most of the time).

cora far

Moments after I mention how dangerous the lawnmower actually is. Notice Cora…

They both energetically throw themselves into whatever they are asked to do while we are outside – so for now I am taking help in any form they will give.  I know that someday I’ll have to threaten bribe ask a few times to get them out                                                               there.

I try to keep the jobs age appropriate and we have also had safety discussions about the lawnmower – which Hank is SO ready to help with and Cora by extension wants to help so she isn’t left out.  So today I present (in no particular order) my five favorite outdoor chores that are actually enjoyable with little helpers:

1. Watering – This is a gimme.  There is nothing better than the squeals of both kids as we water the yard and then they EVER so carefully try to carry the small watering bucket we have over to the hanging baskets and potted flowers.  The mess from this one is mostly dried grass by the back door after their little wet feet come in and they drop all of their wet clothes – because we never plan for this and so the kids are always in regular clothes and Meagan and I shrug and laugh as the kids run towards the water and the dogs frantically run away from it.

2. Minor Repairs and Maintenance – Hank has always been curious about hammers and drills but now he is just old enough/strong enough to (sort of) wield them.  Working on the fence or minor repairs on the outside of the house now take much longer but are balanced out by a 2.5 year old who is so intent on following instructions and listening that I have to remind him to cheer when we finish.  I can never get him to carry his dinner plate to the kitchen with two hands but if I hand him a hammer and ask him to walk to the back yard he walks so intentionally and carefully you’d think it was glass. I love it!

3. Picking up dog poop – I must confess that Meagan does this a lot more than I do – but whoever is doing it at the time the kids are great “assistants”.  They will have nothing to do with the poop but man, can they point it out.  Overgrown grass, fallen leaves all over the yard, mud from playing in the water – and those little eyes can tell us what we missed.  There is never a shortage of deposits from our furry friends so I have ammo and then some to fill the holes they keep digging. (If you’re grossed out by that or think I’m being weird, it’s actually a great deterrent when trying to get your dog to stop digging! They don’t like digging in poop…go figure…)

4.  Landscaping – Filling holes, planting flowers, placing sod, and pulling weeds are projects that have immediate results.  The kids know going to Home Depot on Saturday morning means we are in for a day outside.  They each have a sand shovel that we got at the beach two summers ago that they help move dirt with.  They both love helping with the potting soil on flowers.  Hank tries SO hard to pick up bags of dirt that weigh twice as much as he does. Pulling weeds is a little tough but a pair of gloves and a game of who can pick up the most pulled weeds works at least for 10-15 mins!

5. Picking up sticks/leaves – I love older neighborhoods.  I appreciate new construction and I know there is value in designing and building your dream home – but I LOVE trees. In West Texas, there just aren’t natural trees. Like…at all. So when you buy a new home you get beautiful full new trees.  The tiny saplings eventually grow of course, but in this region, new neighborhoods don’t have much landscape over 4 ft tall. But the neighborhood we live in is established and has many many trees.  Our property has four large trees on it and the house to our west has three with branches that come over our fence line.  There is never a season when we aren’t picking up leaves and/or trimming branches.  The kids LOVE it.  They drag the branches towards the back yard or to the back gate and they volunteer to carry them to the dumpster after I cut them down.  They do NOT need my help as I have been told on multiple occasions (until Hank asks me to lift him up so he can reach).

I know that time is precious and chores are not always the most fun.  But my grandfather and my dad always had me doing something when they worked outside.  I learned lessons.  I learned how to take care of equipment.  I learned how to stay safe. I think I even learned some tricks about taming a yard (it’s an uphill battle – but I’m going to win). Cherish the time you get to spend working with them – even if it is more than you would have to spend if you were by yourself.  What do you love doing outside with your kids?  We are always looking for fun, new things to add so we can be together outside more. Have a great weekend – hope you get to spend some of it outside!

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