Exploring Herbs with Kids - Resources and Ideas (Scroll for free printouts!)
In an effort to advance our plant and garden studies this year, we decided to focus on herbs. Here is a great list of ideas and items I have collected to foster my kids' exploration into all things herbal!
The most obvious first step for hands-on learning with kids would be to buy herb plants or seeds and begin growing your own herb garden! Herbs can be grown indoors or outdoors, so they are perfect for any lifestyle or habitation. I suggest starting with a few herbs your kids are excited to use. Start looking at recipes for food (sauces, soups, bread, teas, etc..) or for medicinal tinctures or salves.
We bought our seed from Seed Savers Exchange this year, but there are many great seed companies and seed-swapping sites where you can get organic, non-GMO seeds. Although, I have to say, paging through the Seed Savers catalog with a cup of tea while looking at our barren yard in the middle of January, is nothing short of inspirational!
We also bought a few organic herb plants from Trader Joe's in order to jump start our hards-on learning as we wait for our seeds to grow. I decided to spend an extra couple of dollars to get my kids their own herb plants (separate from mine in the kitchen) because I wanted them to feel free to observe, manipulate, cut, and utilize the plants through extensive exploration and play.
There is also the possibility to foraging for our herbs, but I feel we need more than a basic understanding of herbal identification (which we are working on!) before plugging into that world of adventure, plus living in a large city limits our opportunity.
Ready made dried herbs and oils can also be bought (see section Herb Supplies below) and are a quick and easy way to dive into making salves and tinctures with your kids.
2. Herb Books and Print Material
There are a lot of wonderful and beautiful herbal books out there. The book pictured above was a "bargain book" from Barnes and Noble. It's a great quick reference to using herbs as well as other foods that promote healing. I would recommend getting some type of herbal encyclopedia, which can often be found inexpensively at new and used bookstores.
The one specific herb book for kids that I would recommend, would be Kid's Herb Book by Lesley Tierra (Amazon affiliate link). This book offers a smaller encyclopedia of common herbs as well as a great introduction to herbal, plant, and medicinal vocabulary. It includes activities, recipes, songs/chants, and coloring pages. It is engaging for younger children and has plenty of information for older kids as well as adults to activate learning.
There is also a kids herb magazine that I have not gotten yet, but it looks helpful and extensive, Herbal Roots zine. Each issue focuses on a specific herb, giving in-depth information, recipes, and activities. We may order a few back issues to try them out.
Urban Moonshine sells some great herbal posters (see image below) for a mere $8 that add so much to a self-directed, causally strewn learning environment. They also have some other wonderful items such as bitters to explore.
Additionally, if you keep scrolling to Herb Courses, there will also be a link to some free printouts!
3. Herb Games and Play.
As mentioned above, we bought additional herb plants to foster some immediate hands-on learning as we wait for our planted seeds to grow. Strewing the potted herbs along with my younger daughter's salt dough and play kitchen items was a great addition to these open-ended play parts. Having the ability to cut and add the herbal ingredients to her concoctions resulted in a glorious herb-based pretend restaurant.
And while she was engaged in play, her older sisters were using the cilantro in our kitchen to make cilantro/lime rice and guacamole with chips (always a hit at our house!).
Another great play opportunity for the whole family is a game we bought over a year ago and absolutely love, Wildcraft (Amazon affiliated link). It's a nature-based board game where you practice herbal identification in addition to learning their individual healing/medicinal value. And it's a cooperative game to boot, which fosters collaborative learning! Fun, cooperative, AND educational, what's not to like?
Occasionally, you can catch this game on sale through the company, Learning Herbs, or sometimes, if it's not on sale, they have some additional incentives.
We have also brought along the identification cards from this game on walks, hikes, and even trips to the nursery or botanical garden to work on our identification skills as a sort of "match" game.
Another new game with great reviews isn't specifically about herbs, but still highly relevant, Photosynthesis by Blue Orange Games (affiliate link).
5. Herb Supplies.
This summer, we are planning on canning some sauces made with our herbs as well as drying our herbs to use throughout the year. But for the purposes of our exploration this spring, we are going to be making salves and tinctures, and using herbal oils. For this, I have purchased salve tins and roller dispensers. Both of these items have already come in handy for so many different things. (affiliate linked)
To purchase herbs already in oil, dried, tea, or powder form, I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. They also have carrier oils, clays, butters, loos-tea accessories, containers, and herbal books. A one-stop-shop for sure, with excellent quality and another catalog that inspires me. Another great place to get high quality essential oils is the ever-popular Young Living Essential Oils.
6. Herb Classes.
When looking for hands-on herbal classes (both local and on-line), I came across Herbal Academy. They have classes and certificate programs for adults ranging from an introduction to herbs all the way through courses to become an herbalist. A course that caught my eye was the family herbalist package which gives you access to their Introductory and Intermediate courses. I also found a link to an Herbal Academy kids course that is not current, but the link has some great information and free printouts: including flashcards, parts of plant page, and scavenger hunt. As we grow as a family of budding herbalists, I would love to take advantage of some of the fantastic looking and positively reviewed courses Herbal Academy has to offer.
On the local front, we are part of a cooking class co-op that starts up again in a few weeks. I have asked the instructor if she could infuse some of her cooking discussions with some information about cooking with herbs and she was more than happy to oblige. We also have a Whole Foods near us, which offers periodic kids cooking opportunities based on location. I have plans to inquire about adding a kids one-time cooking class about herbs this spring. I'll update if this pans out! You may also find luck in inquiring or suggesting a class to your library or recreation and community center. Places like this are eager to provide services and opportunities that people in the community are willing to attend.
7. Herb TV and Podcasts.
To view some great herbal exploration, all you really need to do is search "herb cooking" or "herb growing" on YouTube and you will get all kinds of great videos (previewing advised). Sometimes segments or even full episodes of popular shows addressing herbs are available. Two of our favorite cooking shows about herbs are the Spice Goddess on the Cooking Channel and Good Eats with Alton Brown, which no longer airs but can be found on YouTube (and is reportedly returning on the Food Network sometime in 2018). Alton Brown has some specific episodes where he talks about different herbs, but all of his shows are infused with so much information, that we usually learn something about herbs and spices regardless. On a side note, Alton Brown is currently doing a podcastwhich isn't necessarily herb related, but we love all things Alton!
Speaking of podcasts, if you haven't already checked out Herbal Academy's website from above, they have a list of podcast suggestions that are herb and garden related and can be enjoyed in the car.
I hope this collection of resources and ideas helps you dive into herbal exploration with us.
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