Volunteering with a toddler
By Contributor Allison Baltzersen

Cleaning a beach – well, cleaning anything for that matter – with a toddler is a challenge second only to defusing a bomb in a chimpanzee pen.  But it is possible, if you factor in extra time, use a bit of creativity, and carry a big stick.

Saturday, September 21st was International Coastal Cleanup Day sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy. Since we currently live by a coast, I felt compelled to do my part and clean up a bit of beach near our house.  I wondered if my two year old could benefit from “helping” me clean, so I grabbed an extra set of gloves and brought her with me.

I quickly learned that she was incapable of actually picking up small bits with her ginormous gloves, but that she could wield a stick and was interested in helping.  So I handed her a stick we found in the bushes and let her point at litter for me to pick up.  How did she know what was litter, you ask?  Well, she didn’t on her own.  So we played a game using colors and descriptors, Point to something blue and sparkly! or I see a yucky bag! Can you see it?

While we spent plenty of time talking about what doesn’t belong on  a beach, we also spent a few minutes enjoying all that does – a baby crab, a broken shell and what we both agreed was a “crawly worm” (seriously, I have no idea what it was – some kind of tropical caterpillar?)

Was this process fast? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It took us forever to fill half a bag.  But I don’t care.  It was a wonderful bonding and learning experience for us both and we plan to do other volunteer projects like this again.

Has your toddler ever participated in a volunteer project like a beach clean-up? Dare I ask how it went?     

Allison Baltzersen is a mother of two baby girls and blogs about her bumblings through green parenting over at Funny Shade of Green.