“Hello, lemon balm, may I pick you?”
I’ll never forget my son’s first lessons in harvesting plant medicine. I remember his sweet whispers to the herbs in our garden and the joy that spread across his face after nibbling a tiny sprig of rosemary.
I believe that sharing plant wisdom with the youngest among us is incredibly important work and, even though I’m not an expert myself, I vowed to learn alongside my children. They are my inspiration to find a deeper connection with the natural world and to tap into the beneficial bounty growing around me.
We now grow many of our own herbs and use them for culinary and therapeutic purposes on a regular basis. From a very early age we’ve encouraged our son to be an active participant in these processes too.
Teaching children about herbs is a lot of fun and allows for hands-on experience that will gift them with knowledge and skills for the future. It will also encourage them to be stewards for our Earth. You will find a few of our family’s favorite herbal activities below. Before diving in, there are essential lessons you may wish to share with your children first.
I taught my oldest son that plants are our friends, and that they are living, breathing, and beneficial. I encouraged him to communicate with plants and ask them how they are feeling or about what helps them to grow. Prior to harvesting, we seek their permission and only take what we need. After harvesting, we share our gratitude and sometimes leave an offering. I also taught my son to ask his father or I before tasting any plants and explained that some are not safe for us to eat. We discourage him from picking herbs from roadside areas as well.
I hope that you are inspired by the ideas here and if you are moved to do so, please share your own wisdom and herbal activities too.
Homemade Root Beer:
Add 1 tablespoon sasparilla to 1.5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and continue to boil for approximately 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add 2 teaspoons anise seeds and a cinnamon stick. Let the brew steep for another 10 minutes and then strain. Add a splash of seltzer water and enjoy!
We often turn our beverages into root beer floats with ice cream!
Herbal Dream Pillows:
To help my son have sweeter dreams (during a spell of frequent bad ones) we harvested herbs together for a dream pillow. Once called comfort pillows, tiny pillows filled with calming herbs, were used to soothe crying babies. The theory is based in aromatherapy — scent may trigger memories and promote relaxation, among other benefits. Herbal blends may be created to encourage different effects or visions in dreamland.
Herbs and flowers that promote calming and peaceful dreams may include catnip, chamomile, hops, lavender, lemon balm, lilac, mimosa flowers, and rose petals.
We placed the herbs we gathered in a small drawstring satchel and put them inside my son’s pillow case. You could also place the herbs in cloth and sew the sides together.
Solar Herb Prints:
We made solar prints of the herbs and plants in our yard to help my son learn how to identify them. After collecting, we let our plants soak up the sunshine on solar paper for a few hours. With each herb gathered, we chatted about the various benefits that the plant has to offer. It was fun to see how each print turned out and the images could certainly be framed as décor or gifts.
Herbal Sensory Baths:
Fill a small cloth bag with herbs, tie the bag closed, and let it hang on the faucet under running water. This action releases the herbal essences into the bath. We have used calendula, lemon balm, rose petals, and ginger in our baths, and sometimes I let the herbs float in the water so my children can play with them too.
Dried herbs can easily be mixed into homemade playdough. I whipped up a batch using dried rose petals and beet powder (for color) around Valentine’s Day.
To prepare mix 1 cup of flour, several tablespoons dried herb of choice and 1/4 cup salt in a bowl.
On the stovetop, add 3/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or oil of choice), and 3 tablespoons lemon juice to a pot over medium heat.
Once the water is hot (not yet boiling), add the dry ingredients slowly, while stirring continuously. Once a ball of dough forms, place it on a sheet of parchment paper to cool.