WWOOFing with Children

just being kids

just being kids

Many people ask us, “Where are the children when you’re volunteering on the WWOOF farms?” They are right beside me of course! 🙂 I really feel like I have eyes in the back of my head now! My parents always said that to me growing up, and I was reminded of that many times during this process. WWOOFing with a two and five year old is challenging on farms with varied landscapes and dangers, but it is so worth it!

Rum my 2 year old in the Ergo Carrier on a long hike

Rum my 2 year old in the Ergo Carrier on a long hike

The day is broken up into two work parts: morning work, then lunch break (riposo or mezzigorno) for a couple of hours, and then afternoon work. Every day the hours vary as does the work. Usually we get up and dressed in our work clothes and out the door by 8ish.

Our last farm we had to hike 30 minutes to get to the main farm to find out our duties for the day. The farm was large (1,200 acres), so we needed to pack everything we wanted for the day. There was no going back to get something! Most days we would pack or wear our rain coats since the weather has been abnormal here in Italy this Spring of 2013 with tons of rain and colder weather. Then we would pack lots of fruit/snacks, a pocket knife, water bottles, ergo kid carrier, umbrella, crayons/coloring book, lavender oil (for bug bites), tweezers, toilet paper, and lastly the iPad (yep I said it). The iPad was our last resort when we needed to finish a task and the kids were melting down.

Stella hold a super long wild asparagus!

Stella holding a super long wild asparagus!

Once we found out our task for the day we would make a base camp where we were working. Then Jay or I would check out the area and tell the kids some boundaries of where they could go and what they could do (“don’t go near the large drop off and landslide” or “don’t pull the cat’s tail”). Then they were off to play. With what you ask? Sticks, rocks, earthworms (a definite favorite), grass, flowers, chickens, cows, dogs, cats, bugs, everything! The kids would hunt for wild asparagus, fennel and other herbs, they would collect the eggs from the coop, and help plant in the garden or pull weeds. It is pretty awesome when you see your kids offering to help you with work. They are both really great helpers and get enjoyment out of helping out or having tasks of their own.

Then there are the days that the kids were tired and cranky. We tried to keep a routine in the midst of lots of change. On the rough days we would just keep on and encourage them. We have a family rule in our house of no whining. We tell them, “If you are upset, speak to us and we promise to listen, but no whining.” On some days one of us would need to take a break and keep the kids at home so they could rest, while the other would go work.

There is a silly Veggie Tales song called “The Thankfulness Song” that we would sing all the time. It was good reminder to the kids for perspective- and us some days as well. The lyrics go like this:

Stella and Jason hiking down a steep muddy slope

Stella and Jason hiking down a steep muddy slope

I thank God for this day,

For the sun in the sky,

For my mom and my dad,

For my piece of apple pie!


For our home on the ground,

For His love that’s all around,

That’s why I say thanks every day!


Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!

I’m glad for what I have,

Thats an easy way to start!


For the love that He shares,

‘Cause He listens to my prayers,

That’s why I say thanks every day!

Some days it is a breeze and some days are really challenging. The keys to success have been: everyone getting rest, keeping somewhat of a routine, being prepared, and of course a positive outlook. We are dealing with the same things every parent deals with on a daily basis. We still have attitudes to keep in line, bellies to be fed, teeth coming in, and owies on our knees. The only difference is that we’re on the road. Life goes on no matter where you’re at. WWOOFing with children has been a great experience and I am so glad we are doing it!

Rum checking out the freshly slaughtered Easter lamb hanging in farmers cellar

Rum checking out a freshly slaughtered Easter lamb hanging in a farmers cellar!

The Silly Stuff:

Both kids are farmer snot pros!

Romolo grabbed a fuzzy cactus one day and got thousands of splinters in both of his hands. Poor guy!

Romolo peed his pants  two hours into a four hour hike. Then he walked and/or was carried the rest of the way naked with his hiking shoes and shirt on. Of course I didn’t pack a change of clothes that day.

One day, after a long rain, large puddles of water collected outside of the Cattle pens in the divots from the tractor tires. Some of the water was probably a little run off. Well what would you guess but Stella, Rum, and a few other kids were happily splashing in the water – yep pretty gross! Straight to the shower they all went!

Stella found a headless bunny in the laundry area. She was not phased at all, but was actually impressed because she thought the cat had caught it. “MOM!!! Look what gatto caught!” The bunny was much larger than the cat and was probably caught by a fox =) In fact she has seen quite a few dead, skinned and gutted animals. With no hesitation at all, she just asks, “Are we going to eat that?”



17 comments on “WWOOFing with Children
  1. Hey this was a great article. Eunice & I loved it. Thanks for writing it and it is written well. Just one question: Did you eat the rabbit?
    Love you guys!!!! Miss you too!

  2. “Are we going to eat that?” LOL…..whats the lavender oil for? Before or after bites?

  3. HI! Found your site through a search on doing WWOOF with children! I would LOVE to hear more of your experience and if you found farms to be open to bringing kids along. My kids are older (16, 14, 12, 7), and I want to do this during holiday breaks (we have 2 weeks in October), but I’m curious how realistic it is! Thanks so much!

    Oh, and I still sing that SAME sweet song to my kiddos! LOVE!! 🙂

    • Ciao, sono molto interessata ai tuoi articoli. Mi hai proprio fatto venire voglia. Vorrei provare a fare wwoofing quest’estate con i miei bambini. Potresti passarmi qualche suggerimento? Dato che sono italiana mi piacerebbe esplorare Spagna e Francia. Avete mai provato li’? Ma non mi farei scappare l’occasione di conoscere Carlo e Gigia. Grazie Jill sei un tesoro. I’ll join your mailing list right now.
      Un abbraccio

      • Grazie Luisa! Wwoofing stata un’esperienza incredibile con la nostra famiglia. E davvero ci ha portato più vicini. Il mio consiglio è quello di scegliere un paese, e poi trovare il sito di WWOOF. Poi viene la parte divertente, leggendo tutti i profili di aziende e poi raggiungere i pochi a vedere se hanno availabitly durante il tempo che si desidera. Il mio consiglio migliore è rimanere flessibile, leggero pacco, e se il tuo non felice con cui il vostro a passare ad un altro posto! Buon viaggio! Jill

    • Hi Alison,
      I realize I might be too late, but never less I still wanted to reply. Wwoofing with kids is all about finding the right fit. Once you choose the location you would like to go, and become a woof member of that country, they give you a list of all the farms. On the list is a description of each farm. Some will say outright yes or no to kids. Others will say no, but in the description say “by prior arrangement” So it is all negotiable, on the ages and if they can help out too, or if they will be just another mouth to feed. It has been an amazing experience with our children. I think older children that can help out on the farms would be more excepted. Many times we worked longer and harder to make up for there lack of ability to contribute. But that really depends on the farm. Some farms we didn’t feel that need. Each farm is so different. My best advice stay flexible, and communicate well!

  4. Seriously I think you guys are my heros. I would love to do this with my kids. It would be a little tougher as a single mother. How do you guys come up with money between Wwoofing to cover the other things in life like clothing?

  5. Pingback: Can I WWOOF with my kids? | WWOOF News

  6. How did you find the right hosts? you found some really nice folk, I m considering to take my kids with me. They are 10 and 12 so they are much older. Would you give us an idea on how to choose hosts that provide safe environments for kids and like them too?

    I loved your blog, your adventure and courage!!

  7. This is amazing. If love to take my 7 year old to do this. I would leave the 3 year old with dad, I think alone I could only handle one.

  8. I just read about your experience with wwoofing in Italy. What an amazing thing especially with your children! My wife and I have thought seriously about doing the same thing with our family. We’re a little hesitant because it feels like a gamble to pack up and head to a place where you don’t know anyone but at the same time it seems exilerating. A chance to draw closer as a family and get a deeper appreciation for nature and community. We have thought more about staying in the US but possibly wwoofing our way around the country for a year or so. We’re just not sure about the finances and obviously the first course of action is to see what farms allow children and what their expectations are. Our two children are 8 and 10 so I feel their at very good ages to help with chores. I am a chef so seeing where the food comes from would be especially nice and perhaps my knowledge of preparing ingredients could be helpful. Sorry to rant, it was just motivating to read about your experiences. I wish you luck in your future endeavors and it’s encouraging to know there are people who don’t just except the status quo and who are willing to branch out and try new things.
    Robert Crowson

    • Robert, Thank you for the kinds words. A long overdue blog post on the after effects of WWOOFing needs to happen soon. But let me say that it is a life changing experience, and yes, it is a gamble. Let me encourage you in your decisions. It will be difficult in more ways than you can practically prepare for beforehand, but you will gain more than you give. Your knowledge of food will definitely help you along the way, and will give you many opportunities for education. Many of the people we met along the way have become close personal friends. As far as US based vs abroad, possibly incorporate both. The cross cultural interactions (although you can have that in the US as well) will teach you a great deal about specific cultures, but also about yourself. Certain areas are more affordable than others, but also know that the countryside of Italy is more affordable than say, Milan or Rome. Let me know if you have any questions and we’d be glad to help. Thank you again!

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