Volume 1: Issue 1

Sage Parenting

Connecting Children with Herbs

By Luvmama

Kids seem to have a natural affinity towards herbs. I remember brewing up and infusion and while putting nettle and red rasberry leaf in the jar, my youngest boy, about six months at the time, reached his chubby hand from the depths of my sling to swipe some herb. He wanted to touch, feel and taste it, maybe toss some on his tummy- basic herbalism at its best.
I have heard many stories of kids who instinctively know what herbs to pick and how to pick them. I have also seen children develop a natural ally with a specific herb before words can express why. One of my most treasured objects in my herb room is a picture drawn by a very young daughter of one of my customers. Its a picture of a tall, delicate calendula flower, inspired by the calendula oil she was massaged with. The picture speaks volumes- most kids love herbs and there are a ton of fun ways to build and nourish that connection. Not only for the sheer delight of it, but it will become a solid base for life long natural healing to develop.
A common belief that pains me as a weed lover is that herbs are not needed until you are sick. That herbs are medicine. They are so much more than that, herbs are an invisible thread and web of nourishment that can build and create beauty in and outside your body. They connect you to the good green earth. They can and should be integrated in everyday life, weaving their nourishment-they bring such blessings!
Here are some fun and super easy ways to have fun with herbs and kids:

  • First and foremost set up a kid accessible tea bar. Put bright fresh organic herbs in containers, I like to use glass jelly half jars, they seem just the right size, and fill them with 8 or 10 different herbs. You can label the tops, or print photos of the herb off the computer and put that on the label. I put these in a big wooden bowl. Everyday I brew up a pot of kids tea. They climb up on chairs pulled up to the counter, I uncap all of their herbs and they design their own teas. A pinch of this, a pinch of that. I talk about their names, and possible uses, sometimes I take the tops off and ask them for a pinch of a certain herb and by smelling and looking at the herb, guess which one it is. If you don't want to brew a whole pitcher, you can brew by the cup with a tea ball. It can be an afternoon or bedtime ritual. Either way, creating their own blends is so much more fun than dunking a tea bag where they cannot see or experience much of the herb at all.
    Kids can also name their premade tea blends, giving them funny names or special names. We have had everything under the sun here from chocolate pie tea (with chocolate mint) to mama "errrfff" love tea.
  • Create bath tea bags much in the same way. Pick a day and sit down and stuff a months worth of bath bags with relaxing and soothing herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, catnip, calendula and hops. You can find the small muslin bags at health food stores, or order them through a co-op. You can also purchase some gauze or light material at the fabric store, cut it into squares and bundle the herbs and tie the top. Encourage the kids to smell and custom design their own bags. They can string beads onto the ties when they are finished. Extra fun, is including a special stone or token in each bath bag, for the child to dig out when you go to empty the herb in the compost the next day!
    There is nothing so inviting as a big jar of bath bags near the tub.....
  • We can't neglect the classic tea party. Put a special bedspread down on the floor, put some dress up clothes on, cut some of those ridiculous cucumber sandwiches without the crusts and sit back and see where the conversation takes you.
    A great variation on this theme for older kids is the Great Herb Tasting. With the kids in the other room, brew up eight or so different cups of strong tea. Put them in wine goblets or clear glasses to let the different colors shine through. Then put a piece of paper by each herb and label it a number with what it is very lightly on the back of the paper. Invite them in to smell, mull over, write down impressions and taste each herb trying to guess what it is. This is a lot of fun even for adults, well at least its my idea of a good time
    *Plant and discover herbs outside! Go outside and show and talk about herbs growing right at your doorstep. Its easy to identify "weeds" like dandelion, violet, chickweed and plantain. Go picking on a spring day for dandelion flowers and infuse them in vinegar for six weeks. Sprinkle violets on your salads. Have fun, and get a good guidebook!! There is the Peterson Guide to Medicinal Herbs, Susun Weed's Healing Wise, or Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild and Not so Wild Places, by Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean.
    Show older kids how to chew up a plantain leaf, spit it up and apply it to use as an emergency poultice if they are outside and are bitten or stung.
    Older kids could also do a homeschooling unit on wild and edible herbs with the culmination an entire meal of wild foods!
    Of course, growing some herbs is one of the biggest pleasures. Help create and build an herb garden for your child to call their own. Go to the greenhouse and purchase herbs she/he chooses, or grow from seeds. I like Richters for seeds, (catalogs available at www.richters.com)
    Teach them about how to compost, water, and check up on their plants. Encourage them to *listen* to their plants. Soon, they will be able to have an outdoor tea bar, which my kids have during the summer. We put the water on, then stroll out to the garden basket in hand to pluck their custom tea fresh from the soil.
  • A childrens herb garden (or any garden for that matter!) is not complete without a fairy hut, or a hangout spot for the little people. Brainstorm with your kids how to create a little hut out of completly natural objects, a place the fairies want to kick up their feet. Then build it and they will come.
  • Create dream pillows, much in the same way as the bath bags. Use herbs traditional to dreaming....lavender, hops, gotta have some mugwort in there, roses, lemon verbena, these are some of my favorites. Pick out magical material and if you cannot sew, just put the herbs in the middle of a square and tie with a piece of ribbon or hemp. These can be hung on a bedpost or inserted in a pillow. Ask your children about their dreams........for older kids, buy them a special journal to record their dreams if they wish.
    You can also make popular kids balm, dream balm with many of the same herbs.
    For a very basic recipe you will need:
  • Olive Oil
    Essential oils (not required)
    ~Pour olive oil over an handful of your dreamy herbs in a pot. Heat very very low for four hours or longer. Cool, then strain the herb from the oil. Put the oil back in the pan, and stir in some beeswax, for a small batch you will not need much, start with just a little you can always reheat and add more if needed. Test it by taking a spoonful and dropping it on the counter. If it goes solid, and feels like a salve should when you touch it with your finger its all set. If its too soft add a bit more beeswax.
    While still warm pour into your jar and then let it dry on the counter. Happy Dreaming!

  • If you have a family altar, a place for all of your inspirational goodies, and various odds and ends picked up on walks in the woods and other outdoor travels, include herbs! Have a special bowl for herbs and change it often. Everytime you change it, pass it around, drink some of it as tea, talk about its uses and where it grows.
    *Help your older kids create power bags or amulet bags. Have them include a special stone and herbs and whatever else they would like in a pouch to wear around their necks. Choose herbs based on what they are drawn to. Magical properties can found by opening yourself to the herb. Many kids know intuitively which objects lend their security or which ones they would need in a power bag.
    *Bring herbs into ordinary pleasures like crafts. Herbs have all sorts of textures, smells and colors. Instead of a craft box with craft materials bought from the store, create one with natural materials. Use stones, twigs, bark, and herbs. Kids can glue natural collages onto paper or create jewlery, or create fairy wands glued with herbs and other natural material, and colorful ribbon.
    Use herbs for dyeing eggs in the springtime to celebrate the fertility of the earth. Some good herbs or vegetables for natural color include: red cabbage for blue, tumeric and calendula for yellow, purple basil for green, tansy for light green, red onion skins for lavender, and beets for a cheery pink.
    Just make a really strong tea to dip the eggs in, and add 1-2 Tbs of vinegar to each color. The longer you leave it in, the deeper the color. You can polish each one off after it has dried with a little coconut oil if you want. Oh yes, I almost forgot, don't forget to use a glass or enamel pan for your natural dyes.
    *Create a big ole bottle of family massage oil. Have each member of the family chose one herb, combine them in a bottle with almond or other oil. Then cap, and hang in one of your trees in the yard for a complete lunar cycle. Visit the oil often. Strain, and use for the families loving massages....
    good herbs=good love=strong families.

Well, I could go on and on, the ideas and possibilities are endless! Within each of our families lay limitless ideas and projects.
Invite the green world into your life and into your kids lives, its a connection that grows and nourishes everyone.

Visit luvmama's website at Nettlesong