Tips for Homesteading with Children

Homesteads are a wonderful place to raise a family. Still, it can be challenging to keep little ones engaged and most of all safe on a small farm. Here are my best tips for homesteading with children.

Why Homesteads are Great Places for Kids

Chances are if you are reading this you don’t need me to convince you of what a wonderful way of life this is for children. What you might be struggling with, just as I have, is how to keep our little ones a part of the homestead but also keep them safe. We’ll dive into that thoroughly in this article.

In case you are here prior to having your kids and trying to figure out how little ones and this whole farm thing will work out, here’s my belief.

From a young age our children have learned the responsbility of caring for animals. They have already begun learning how to grow their own food. The farm itself provides wonderful places to use their imaginations to create their own adventures. Our lilac bush, aka “Fairy Castle” is where my daughter spends the majority of her time in the summer. Old stumps for a table and chairs. Thrift store mugs and giant kettles vessels for pinecone tea and moss cakes.

I can really imagine no place better than a small farm or homestead to raise a family. The opportunities for exploration, learning life skills, and developing emotional capacity, are endless.

girl with cow rough and tumble farmhouse

Top tips for Homesteading with Children

Since “children” covers anywhere from a newborn up to a teenager, this list is going to vary a bit. My first point isn’t going to be much help if you have teenagers, so please skim the list and take what will work for you

1. Wear Them

If you haven’t invested in a good baby carrier then now is the time. I have a whole post covering just baby carriers and the best styles/brands I have found. To make it short, I recommend a nice soft wrap for when baby is 0-6 months old. You can tuck them right into your hoodie during cold months or wear a light t-shirt and then baby on top.

As they get older and want to see what’s going on, my favorite is the lille baby. You can carry the baby on your back, hip, forwards, backwards, etc. The best part of this carrier is the wide waistbelt and nicely padded shoulder straps.

Anywhere you can safely carry baby along, do so. Half the time they’ll fall asleep. The other half they’ll be fascinated.

tips for babies on homesteads rough and tumble farmhouse

2. Nap Times

I used to joke that I should have called my blog “The Nap Time Farmer”. It’s not an option now so much as my oldest refuses to nap. But back when she would take a solid nap, I would bust my butt and get a ton of things done. This goat shelter? Made entirely during a two-hour nap window.

Invest in a good baby monitor and head out to take care of the more challenging or unsafe tasks while they snooze.

3. Call Grandma

I recognize fully this might not be an option for a lot of people. We actually live two hours away from the nearest grandparent. We don’t get grandparent help on a consistent basis. However, my mom will come visit at least once a month. Sometimes if she can swing it she will visit for 3-4 days. My mother-in-law also makes it for visits and will gladly take care of the girls while I get work done.

During this time I hustle to catch up on projects or work ahead on others.

Spending time with family outside of me and my husband allows the kids to have free play all around the farm while developing positive relationships with people who love them. Win-win for everyone.

baby with strawberries rough and tumble farmhouse

4. Invest in Child Care

This one admittedly we haven’t done yet but I’m currently on the hunt for a sitter. Again, I recognize this one might not be in the cards for some given budget, where you live, or availability of childcare.

My goal is to find a sitter for just a couple hours a week here at the farm. I don’t plan to be doing the physical farm work, but rather devote time to the paperwork side of things. It’s amazing how much work I can cram into a two-hour window!

5. Create Pockets of Safety

This is my second favorite way to have little ones involved on the homestead.

In each area where I need to get work done, I am creating safe places where they can play and roam around to a certain extent.

I am currently in the process of converting a horse stall into a playroom for my daughters (ages 3.5 and 1.5 at present). This will be their hangout when our cow freshens in about two months and I’m busy milking. This new play stall will be complete with some patio furniture, twinkle lights, a play kitchen, and whatever else I can scrounge up for them. Heck I might even put a mini fridge down there with snacks they can get for themselves.

Another safety pocket I’m working on is in the garden. The garden itself is fenced so they stay contained. However, they get bored fast and make for an escape. This summer one raised bed will be converted to a sandbox with a patio umbrella stuck in the middle. Sun protection and a safe place for them to play.

Other plans for the summer include a pallet-made “mud kitchen” they can make a mess in while I tackle weeds.

Look for ways you can create spaces that are just for them, in and around where you need to be working.

6. Give them a Job

This last summer my daughter was 2.5. When her younger sister napped, we’d go out for “Farm Work”. Jane would get her little boots on and march out there with me and we would work on projects she could safely assist with. Sweeping up the barn, cleaning out a shed, working in the garden, etc. Jane was an expert green bean picker for such a little thing.

She also LOVED to come out and milk our goats. Her job was to scoop feed for the mamas and help brush them. Then she knew to sit on an upturned bucket by the stanchion, where she would lovingly stroke their noses and tell them how good and beautiful they were. It was wonderful.

Once they are able to walk and carry things, they are able to help out in small ways and love to do it.

children on a homestead rough and tumble farmhouse

7. Make Expectations Clear

Communication with your kids is so important. Before starting on a farm project or working with a safe animal, talk through what you expect from them. “We need to be quiet around the goats because loud voices scare them. Let’s practice our soft quiet voice.”

Or “When the mama goats run into the barn they go really fast! So please sit over here on your special seat until they are up on their stanchion”.

Another great tip is to focus on what they CAN do, vs. what they can’t. For example, “I know you want to milk the goat, but she is a little shy. What would be a big help is if you brushed her for me!”

8. Strap ’em In

This is a last-resort option for keeping kids safe on the farm. When it comes down to it, if you simply can’t keep them busy or safe and you HAVE to get some work done, strap them into a safe space and give them a screen. I have only used this tactic a few times but it has been necessary.

For example, two summers ago we sold one of our dairy cows and her calf. My husband was gone and there was nowhere I could safely place my daughter while I haltered and loaded the cow. Never mind wrangling her wild steer calf.

So I strapped my daughter into her car seat and drove down to the farmyard. She got to watch a show on the ipad, safe and sound. Within about thirty minutes I was able to load up my cow and wave them off down the road.

If the situation is a little less risky, strapping them into their stroller or into a wagon are other options.

how to homestead with kids rough and tumble farmhouse

9. Support their Projects

My girls are too young yet to be responsible for their own animals. My oldest however loves rabbits and keeps asking for one. When she is around six or so, we might be adding rabbits back to our farm. I want my kids to find something they like doing on our homestead. Once they do, I will help them get started with their project and then be there to help them along. As they are able they can be financially responsible for them, creating their own little business if they want.

While my girls are young, I involve them in this as best I can. Again, Jane loves green beans and spinach. So our garden plans include two raised beds of beans and continuous spinach planting. When I ordered seeds this year she got to pick them out.

Maybe it’s a type of livestock. Or cooking. Maybe they really like carving spoons. Or making bird houses out of gourds. Who knows! There is enough room on a homestead for any child to find a spark and follow it.

flemish giant sandy colored buck rough and tumble farmhouse

10. Get Up Early and Tag Team It

This one sucks but hey, it’s very effect. If you are able to work in another half hour or even an hour into your day before the kids are awake, you will be that far ahead. I am finally able to sneak out of bed without waking my 1.5 year old (girl is a terrible sleeper and so she is co-sleeping still). I can do chores, tidy the kitchen, and usually sneak in a little computer work on top!

If you simply can’t spare the early hours, having your spouse watch the kids while you get farm work done is another option. Again not my favorite, but sometimes necessary. Or you might find the kids CAN be safely involved in a homestead project if your spouse is there to watch them.

11. Get Rid of Dangerous Animals

If you have an aggressive rooster or any animal that has even a small chance of injuring your child, please sell them or eat them ASAP. Of all the animals on our farm, it is the roosters/chickens that scare me the most around my children.

When my mom was around 18 months old she was attacked by a rooster and lost her right eye to it. The only reason she wasn’t completely blinded is because it was cold out and her hat slid over her other eye to protect it.

Do not. I repeat, do not tolerate a dangerous animal when you have small children.

Our king rooster, River Phoenix is a total gentleman.

Final Thoughts

Homesteading with young children can be hard. I’ve had to come to the conclusion that certain things on the farm just have to wait until our kids are older.

An example of this was my decision this last year to sell all our goats. I love having them and enjoy them, but something had to give. I just didn’t have the time to care for them as they needed.

My little girls are only this little once. Goats will always be there. Some day they will probably come back to the farm, but now is not the time for them.

It will definitely take some time to figure out what animals and set up work for you and your family. Don’t be afraid to say “You know what? This isn’t right for us at this time.”

Scale back as you need to. Build in those safe spaces. And ultimately make your homestead a place both you and your babies can enjoy.

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