It has been an interesting year in a lot of homes. Interesting being the simplest way of describing what 2020 has been to many of us. We have been fortunate. Up here in Maine, our virus rate has been lower than average, our weather mild enough—though talk to me again in February–and in our house, both adults have flexible employment with places that understand our need to be with our children. Still, the dynamics inside our house have been skewed since March, and we have been using every tool in our toolbox to help keep our kids, and our own sanity, on the straight and narrow. Like many households right now, I often think that we are all getting a little more screen time than is advised, but also like many households, I really don’t care about what is appropriate in that respect right now. Happy, healthy, and sane is my baseline, appropriate can get left by the wayside, and I am fine with that.
Still, whenever we get a chance, we do something physical. We spent much time at the beach this year, much time in our garden, and we have big plans to construct an ice rink this winter. Integral to all of these things of late has been The Big Dig, a winner of The Toy Insider 2020 Hot Summer Toys. We got ours too late in the summer for most of our beach trips but have gotten down and dirty in our garden, with big plans for winter digs.
With The Big Dig, our backyard becomes the construction zone my kids have always tried to make it. It has two-handed controls for digging and dumping, and it has a contoured seat for little tushies to stay comfortable on the job site. It is completely flexible and can rotate 360-degrees. The base is sturdy enough to hold my 11-year-old, just barely. With a recommendation of up to 110lbs, he is definitely on the higher end of the weight limit.
So far I have managed to get my kids to dig over the remains of all three of my above-ground garden boxes, so I am completely prepared to plant my vegetable garden in the spring, and all I had to do was pull up the plant remnants and tell them to go nuts. They have spent hours digging, moving, and dumping dirt, and even found a few potatoes that we missed when we harvested our first potato crop.
They were all very excited to learn that it could be used in the snow, and look forward to being allowed to dig snow all over the garden, having been told that they were not allowed to dig up my daffodil bulbs!
The kids even put it together when it arrived. Within ten minutes they had it fully operational, though my 11-year-old did have to get some assistance from dad as there were no holes in the seat where you had to screw one of the panels in. That was his only complaint about the instructions and the only thing he would recommend an improvement on. It is simple enough to disassemble into its components for easy transport to the beach, and they are so enamored with this idea that all three of them have offered to carry it. Which is great because I still have to carry the sit-on-top kayak!
My kids would agree with the company that it helps develop fine motor skills, enhances visual-spatial skills, stimulates logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills, and encourages imaginative role-play, though they would use different words. So far, The Big Dig has been used in an active game of “real-life Minecraft,” has been used to start a colony of humans on Mars, and has been used to hunt for buried treasure. And, of course, finding potatoes.
My five year old has moved all the dirt around from one side of the box to the other, and learned a lesson about not spinning to fling the dirt everywhere. My 11-year-old continues his obsession from last summer of digging a tunnel to China. I am sure I had the same obsession as a child; Gimli would be proud. And my 8-year-old, who has ADHD and anxiety, spend a lot of time out there. There is something about the movement and the tactile feel with the dirt that soothes him. To watch him play on it is like watching someone float in a calm lake, he just loses sight of anything else going on. All this within the confines of my vegetable garden. Every time the weather is warm enough, we are outside, and every time we are outside, one of the kids is on The Big Dig. Shockingly, there have been no arguments about whose turn it is, and I still haven’t figured out why they find it so easy to share this but fight over the same puppets until everyone, including mum, is screaming!
We have rotated through many outdoor toys over the past 11 years. Who knew we just needed to look to the construction site for something that would accomplish so much? If you have small kids and a vegetable garden that you loathe to till, then this is an absolute must-have! Work out their energy and get yourself ready to plant, all in the same package! And if you dig too deep, it’s time to play wizards.