Children are naturally drawn to herbs. Intrigued by the healing properties of these useful plants, children help us remember the magic inherent in working with herbs. Three simple projects to undertake with children include planting seeds, making herbal tea blends, and creating herbal books with pressed plants and illustrations. Introducing herbalism to your kids will nourish a connection to nature and healing, and create an opportunity to spend some positive, intentional time with your child.
Most common herbs are easy to grow. Choose seeds by perusing herbal company websites with your child, ordering herbal seed catalogs, or heading to your local natural foods market or nursery to explore the shelves of seeds together. The best herbs to start with include Chamomile, Mint, Lemon Balm, Catnip, and Calendula. Seeds from these plants require no special preparations-potting soil, water and sun will suffice. The seeds themselves provide an opportunity for exploration — from miniscule Chamomile seeds to the dragon-like seeds of Calendula. Plant the seeds in small pots, and tend to them each day with your child. Children will delight in the delicious experience of watching seedlings appear, transform and grow. Once the danger of frost has passed, plant the seedlings outside, or keep them in pots. Herbs naturally thrive in adverse conditions. They will not need much tending beyond keeping weeds at bay, adding a bit of fertilizer, and watering when dry.
When your plants have come to maturity, you can harvest leaves and flowers to prepare for tea. Set up a special place for drying the herbs. In a dark room, hang plants in loose bunches, or lay them on a clean cloth. Set a fan on them, and within a couple days, your herbs should be dry. Alternatively, dry harvested plants in an oven at its lowest temperature for a couple hours. Be sure to check the herbs frequently if using this method.
Children will delight in creating tea blends to drink and share! Most natural foods grocers carry tea bags for filling, or they can be purchased online. All herbs you started from seed make great teas when dried and combined, or on their own. Purchase other tea herbs to supplement-including exotic hibiscus flowers or cinnamon bark. Place dried herbs in separate bowls and have your child spoon the materials into tea bags. Tea bags can be stapled or ironed shut. Create tea labels together, and staple them to the bags using natural twine. Even picky children will be excited to prepare and drink their teas-especially when sweetened with honey! They will relish the sentient experience of watching the colors and smells infuse into the water, and will be eager to taste their blends.
The Children’s Herbal
“Herbals” are books devoted to educating readers about herbs and their properties. Parents and children can easily make their own herbals. Start by generating questions about the herbs you have grown:
- What do they look like?
- Where do they like to grow?
- What are their properties?
- What parts of the plant are used?
- What legends surround them?
The answers to these questions can be found in herbals borrowed from the library, or from online searches. Once answers are found and recorded, work on gathering images to print up, creating drawings or paintings of the herbs, or using pressed herbs as illustrations. After you make an illustrated page for each herb, bind the pages together and create a cover for your herbal.
Complete one or all of these activities to connect with your child and with the healing power of these useful plants.