10 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler in a Horse Barn

10 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler in a Horse Barn

For anyone juggling parenthood with a hobby or career with horses, here are a few creative ways to keep young children engaged at the barn.

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By Tara Matsler, AQHA director of marketing

Balancing parenthood with a passion for horses often requires creativity. My daughter is now 4, and I can attest we've used these 10 activities many a time through the toddler years. These tasks keep time at the barn fun, and I've found as my daughter now pitches with chores without being asked – in fact, she considers it fun. (It often feels like a page out of "Hunt, Gather, Parent.")

  1. Roll polo wraps. You may think, “I can barely roll a polo wrap and I’m an adult.” Or, “Aren’t there machines and gadgets that do this for you?” My friend, that is not the point. The goal here is to keep your toddler entertained. With some training and guidance, your toddler is ready to turn loose on a pile of unrolled wraps. Try: “How many can you roll while I clean this stall?” Disclaimer: Be fully prepared to re-roll every wrap. 

  1. Stall cleaning. Speaking of cleaning stalls, why not incorporate your toddler into the task? Presently, we’re mastering “set the scoop on the ground, slide, scoop, lift, carry, lift a little higher, spin shovel – dump poop!” It is quite the endeavor – and accomplishment. As hell-bent as my child is on using the shovel, I’m investing in a child-sized pitchfork to alleviate some load. (Try Schneider’s if you want one, too.) 

  1. Sliding on bagged pellets. Can’t go to the park? No problem! 1/1 toddlers in our household recommend sliding down a stack of bagged pelleted bedding. 

  1. Climbing hay or straw bales. This is an evolution of sliding down bags of bedding. Note: Ensure the bales are stacked one – maybe two – bales high, and that your child cannot fall in between bales, that they’re supervised, etc. – you know, all of the responsible parent things. 

  1. Retrieve horse cookies. Send your toddler off on a secret mission to secure treats. Then assist your child in dropping the cookies into the horse’s feed bucket. 

  1. Counting horse cookies. Level up: Ask your child to count out two cookies for this horse. Three cookies for that horse. Favorite horse = most cookies. Naughtiest horse (I’m not naming any names **cough, Gibson, cough**) = one cookie ... maybe. 

  1. Brushing horses. With our most trustworthy horses, my daughter brushes their front legs while I stand watch. Brushing is much easier for little hands if they have a child-size brush to use, like this one from SmartPak

  1. “Hold this horse.” As the horse stands in the cross ties, I task my toddler with holding the lead rope to keep the horse still. 

  1. Vitamins. Do your horses receive supplements? Get your toddler involved with scooping them out. I tell you, my daughter has the vitamin routine down better than any adult member of our family. And the oil we top-dress on our grain? SO. MUCH. JOY. and purpose this small child has when she runs the pump. 

  1. Take the saddle for a test ride. Set a saddle on a stand, help your child climb on up and take them on the stationary ride of their life. Bonus points if they have a child-size rope they can twirl and toss. It’s an amazing re-creation of Chapter 2 from “Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies.” Don’t have the book? Here’s where to order on Amazon – the series is our household favorite. 

Alright, parents – what did I miss? Have something you would add to this list? Email us at social@aqha.org

Need more entertainment ideas? Download AQHA’s Activity Book for Horse-Loving Kids. It’s 28-pages of coloring, horse trivia, crosswords and games.