My stepson has grown in to a fine young man, he's now married with a young family, which now makes me a Nanna, I refuse to be a Grandma that would make me old(er) lol! When they were younger my nephews and niece would come to stay occasionally (the two youngest still do) and whilst they were here, I would share my love of all things herbal with them.
I enjoyed doing this and it seems they loved it to, after one stay several years ago my niece got taken around the school garden and she correctly identified the herb chives growing in their garden and proudly told the teacher all the things you could do with chives, including eating the flowers!
Hearing that news made me smile in a very proud auntie way then and it still makes me smile today, she's now a teenager and will most likely have forgotten that visit but I have the photos haha! My youngest nephew on his last visit took home with him lemon balm, chocolate mint and fennel plants and he uses them regularly as he's quite the budding young chef, its been a standard to teach all three of them how to make mint tea, make parsley sauce and bake a cake of some description with herbs in the ingredients. I can now look forward to teaching my grand children the wonder of herbs and show them how to identify wild herbs and flowers and I can't wait. Whilst I'm (im)patiently waiting for this covid thing to go away so I can once again spend time with them all, thought that it would be a good idea to share my tips with others so they can help turn the children they know into budding young herbaholic's to. If anybody is interested I can recommend a couple of books and resources to help, so leave me a comment below.
There are many ways to enhance the appreciation and understanding of herbs with children, you can engage children in a wide range of activities where they can use and explore herbs without really trying. If you're a teacher or volunteer at your local school, then you can organise school visits to herb gardens, add herbs to nature tables and involve children in class projects looking at growing herbs, their historical uses or using them in crafts, children can learn about wildlife that use herbs as a food source, create a garden to encourage beneficial insects into the area, a herbal butterfly garden can be a delight to children of all ages.
Local flora in your area can also be used as a resource, blackberries, elderberries, nettles and dandelions are also herbs and have had many uses historically in herbal medicine and as food. Some of them can also be used as dyes and to make clothing!
Aside from the child friendly herbal projects that I will be adding to this section, I plan to write a series of information sheets aimed at children that will include general information about the herb, historical information and uses and suggestions to make or do something with each herb. Whilst I work on adding all this, here is a list of ten things you can do with your child to help them explore the fascinating world of herbs.
1. Plan, design and plant a herb garden. If you don't have the space for a outdoor garden, consider growing herbs on the classroom windowsill or on a table close to a window and make a table herb garden.
2. Take a herb Survey. Get your child to do a 'herb survey' of the herbs and spices in the home, once you have a list, get them to look where the herbs and spices come from and what they can be used for.
3. Go on a herb walk. Most local councils offer guided herb walks of some description, not all are suitable for children, but most are. Ask in your local area and see what is on offer, then take the child on a herbal field trip.
4. Make herbal crafts. Pick herb leaves and make decorated paper items, in the same way that potato prints are produced, or press herbs and use them to create decorated items. You can produce gift tags, cards and calenders using both these methods. Make herb pot pourri, herbal vinegar or grow fresh herb plants and give them as gifts.
5. Start a child's herbal or journal. Let the children browse some old herb books online to give them an idea of what they look like, then ask them which herbs they'd like to include, get them to find out as much as they can about the herb in question, write a poem or story, draw the herb and learn its uses, if you have more than 1 child get them to do a herb each and share what they learn. If you're doing this with a class of children, assign each child a herb and get them to draw the herb they've been assigned and write some facts and information about the herb. When all the assignments are complete, put them all together as 'Class 2c's Herbal'.
6. Discover some old herbal uses and folklore. Older children may enjoy interviewing grandparents or other elderly people and asking them if they have any stories about herbs or ways that herbs were used.
7. Compile a child friendly herb recipe book. Pick a variety of favourite culinary herbs and get children to research recipes containing these herbs. If facilities allow make up some of the recipes and get the child to pick the top 10 and produce a small herbal recipe book of their favourite recipes. For younger children this can just be simple things like chives in scrambled eggs. I'll be adding recipes for making herb teas, parsley sauce, herb cakes and biscuits and other items that you can try.
8. Take an historical look at herbs. Get your child to look at the way the Romans, Tudors, Elizabethans or Victorians used herbs, what did they use them for? How does it differ to the way we use them today? Maybe they can drawer these uses or think of ways the herbs could still be used today?
9. Research the way herbs were used. Herbs have been used in many different ways through the ages, to dye cloth, scent the home, preserve food, used to prevent pests and diseases. Get your child to discover these uses and then experiment in the kitchen or classroom with herbal dyes, make lavender wands, tussie mussies and pot pourri. Again I'll be adding posts with information on making all these things, plus a simple salve and other items that older children can make and use.
10. Take a look at herbs as medicine. How has medicine changed over the years? Did we use herbs more in history than we do now? If so what herbs were used and what remedies did our grandparents and great grandparents use? Did they really rub their chests with goose fat? What were mustard plasters? Check your local museum to see if they have any herbal medicine displays. The Old Herb Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret in London covers the history of medicine and medicinal use of herbs, they also have a resource pack available to purchase.
That should keep you going for a while, if you have any ideas for things to include or topics you'd like to see added to the Herbal Haven Herbs for Children section then leave me a message. I look forward to watching this resource grow.