~ Kids see the world the way they want it to be...or maybe..the way it really is..who knows? What is obvious, though, is that most of us "grow up" and forget to see possibilities and simplicity. Kids are also born with reasonable palates that are perfectly fine with unsalted and unsweetened whole foods. How do we allow kids to maintain, and how do adults nurture a childlike vision and palate? Starting young- with healthy foods and a generous and imaginative exposure to nature, along with stories, games..and a little magic.
"Each planet, each plant, each butterfly, each moth, each beetle becomes doubly real to you when you know its name. Lucky indeed are those who from their earliest childhood have heard all these things named." John Cowper Powys ~
~Children like things that are very big..and very small-which makes gardening a perfect way to nourish their innate trust of the natural world, so they never outgrow the love of fresh foods and being outside...and maybe keep seeing faeries their whole lives~
- Let them have their own garden plot or space in your garden (away from areas you do not want little feet/eager hands damaging your crops)
- Plant BIG and fast growing plants: pole beans, peas, radishes, pumpkins, squash, melons, sunflowers and calendulas, corn, or anything with big seeds as they are easy to plant and harvest.
- Plant nice smelling herbs: mints of all kinds, sweet peas, chamomile, scented geraniums, pineapple sage, roses, anise hyssop, stevia
- Plant herbs/flowers/veggies that feel nice or look strange: lamb's ears, mullein, weird gourds, kohlrabi, broccoli (from a 2-3 year old's height, these look pretty amazing)
- Start seeds in egg cartons--just the right size for kids to use and it teaches recycling
- Skip the weeding, but kids are good bug pickers. Older kids, though, are great deadheaders, waterers, weeders.
- Plant string bean and sunflower tunnels or teepees
- Plant "faerie rings"-- use daffodil or anyu spring bulb and plant in a circle.
- Let them decorate their/your garden with flags, statues, colored rocks, faerie houses and toad houses
- Let them help you pick berries, harvest everything. My grandson would not touch strawberries until he picked one from our garden. They will at least try foods they have a connection with.
- Start them off with fixing fruit salads, helping with herbed cookies or muffins/pancakes or eggs---and herbed fruit ice pops
- Take a daily garden tour, repeating names of plants and what they taste like and are used for-it will eventually sink in. Rhymes and old sayings help them remember--"Nettles in, Dock out"(referring to the cure of nettle stings being found in yellow dock leaves.)
- Eat flowers-make sure they are edible, but start with violets, pansys, daisy petals, rose petals, phlox, lavender, mints-throw them in salads, on fruit, stick them on cupcakes, freeze them in ice cubes. It is weird and fun.
- Leave the dandelions ALONE!!!! Kids love them (I have gotten more than my share of Mother's Day bouquets of these) They love the fact there are so many, the yellow pollen that rubs off on their fingers, they can make necklaces and crowns and when the time comes, they love blowing the seed heads. But my favorite thing is that it can take a small child a few hours to pick one gallon of dandelion heads to make wine. They are a great babysitter.
A strong physical body sets the groundwork for a productive life on all levels. Kids are more susceptible to problems related to pesticide and fertilizer exposure, so a logical start for kids health is to provide a wholesome food supply. My grandmother's generation grew up with the addage "You are what you eat", and while some of their cooking practices leave something to be desired, we are a generation of twinkies, white bread and soda--lots of food, but very little nutrition. Aside from foods, though, physical activity is another key to healthy kids.
Children love play, but they also love meaningful work and to be helpers (2-4 year olds are notorious helpers). So, let them help you garden and cook...
~ FORMULA for Strong Kids:
1 part NETTLES
2 parts MINT (whatever type is preferred)
1 part RASPBERRY LEAVES
This can be made as a tea and them add a tad of honey and freeze into ice pops, or cooled down or iced to drink 1/4 cup per day or the 1/4 cup of tea can be added to grape/pear/pineapple/pomegranate juices and sipped all day long.
These herbs are rich in calcium, minerals and iron- all of which ensure strong bones, good growth, and an even temperment.
Children's minds get lost in stories, think in metaphors, revel in strangeness, but also need instruction into being focused and dedicated-in being "mindful". It is a good balance between the lofty and the common that makes life interesting and worthwhile and makes us better people.
There are plenty of plant stories and many fairy tales and nursery rhymes are food oriented. It was a Jewish custom to put honey on the alphabet letters so children could trace them with their fingers and lick off the honey--to emphasize that learning is sweet. Plants are food and food is hardwired into us, but it needs to be reinforced in healthy ways--not as obsession. Stories of plants as people and fairies tending gardens helps kids think of plants as friends and equal beings to be cared for--and idea that can encompass people, animals and the world at large
The practical side of "mindfulness" is equally as important. Kids love magic, but they also love money and to feel accomplished.
Again, plants can serve as a pathway to blend these two worlds.
- While younger children cn help with meal preparation, older ones can actually plan the meals. Some may be a bit strange, but so what. With adult guidelines of the using only whole foods, kids usually come up with something that is balanced enough. Let them also choose an herb tea (iced or hot ) to accompany the meal. If you have a garden or not, teach the seasonal aspects of food to eat what you have growing and ripe or making the most economical and healthy choices at the store.
- Let them experiment with teas. Encourage a different tea each week. The best ones for kids are : mints, berry teas, chamomile.
- Learn plants stories/myths/fairy tales and read them right before/after being in the garden or taking a walk or drinking some tea. Jack and the Beanstalk and Peter Rabbit are childhood favorites.
- Make and give May Baskets on May 1st-fill small baskets and fill with spring flowers and herbs
- Kids can help with making holiday gifts from the garden--pressing flowers is an easy, but satisfying summer activity that leads to gifts of cards or bookmarks, etc. later in the year
- Let them help make their own remedies. Making syrups of tasty and not so tasty herbs is always fun
- Join 4-H--there are a number of projects that directly relate to herbs/gardening and other nature related areas. It is a great program that balances work and fun.
- Set up a lemonade or Farmer's Market stand. For years, my daughters made all their spending money selling vegetable, homemade herbal soaps, sachets, catnip toys, natural dog biscuits and sweet breads. If one thing in particular engages them, go with it--such as planting a crop of catnip or valerian to make cat toys. Sometimes specializing makes more sense (and often--cents--too)
- Enter Fairs. This encourages pride in good stewardship of plants-whether you enter flowers/herbs or vegetables. Or, bake with herbs or put up a display or scrapbook of gardening efforts. While their is nothing wrong with trying to be the "best", this type of competition can also be framed as simply growing the best plant and doing the best YOU can. But it also educates the viewers of your exhibit
- Teach them always to be thankful for what nature provides, by leaving a "gift" for the faeries or just the plant, itself. Leaving old tea bags/coffee grounds/flour/cornmeal--and even pennies(which allow for a very slow release of copper into deficient northeastern soil) helps nourish the plants and slows kids down long enough to think about the process they are engaged in.
HERBS FOR KIDS MINDS ~
Aside from Mints (which encourage good digestion and a stable nervous system which allows good brain function) and Chamomile (which aids those with ADHD, nervous stomachs, sleeplessnes-which negatively impact learning), other childhood favorites are :
Scullcap- a mild nervine that allows sleep without morning drowsiness or addictive problems. This is a (fairly tasteless) mint, so also helps digestion. For nervous kids or those going through difficult circumstances. This plant is so named because the tiny flowers look like medieval monks "skull" caps. (1/4 cup of tea per day for kids 3+)
Dill--yes dill weed and seed from the vegetable garden. "Dilla"-means to "lull" lullaby--in Scandinavian countries. . This calms the digestion and calms the nerves as well-very gently. This is used for teething or colicky babies as well (1 Tbsp. for babies-2; 1/4 cup for ages 3+)
Raspberry Leaf-lots of calcium and minerals and immune building to foster a good groundwork of body strength to support mental growth. The berries themselves offer some of the same protections. (Eat berries and/or 1/4 cup tea per day--all ages)
Catnip-smells bad, but tastes great!! Another high calcium herb. Aside from building bones, calcium is necessary for cood electrical conduction in the brain and heart. And it calms overactive or overprogrammed kids (Mild enough for colicky infants-1 Tbsp., 1/4 cup all other ages)
Generally, kids don't need a formula for this sort of thing-- one herb (a "simple") being sufficient. Kids have alot going on mentally and physically-aside from what life has in store, so often, just the process of slowing them down a little and allowing for good sleep keeps their ability to focus and learn at its best.
Yes, we all have to grow up, but leaving the spirit intact is essential. Healthy kids wake up every day with their spirits soaring. Those that find a passion early on are lucky. Those that can nurture it and hang on to it into adulthood are the luckiest. The trick is always allowing a bit of magical thinking, of admiting and feeling comfortable with not knowing everything for sure and keeping a sense of wonder.
In the gardens, spirit is nurtured by faeries or whatever you wish to call plant spirits. Coming from a Celtic background, faeries are my passion. Having never seen does not worry me in the least. Some kids say they see them (some adults too) Who knows? But we all "know" them and are happy for the possibility of them. My kids used to leave faerie food all over the gardens and in their dollhouse and my grandson just left his first faerie cookies and whip cream for Midsummer's night.
- There are tons of faerie books/posters/songs/poems that celebrate the original "imaginary friends" . Invite them into your child's life and gardens--you will benefit too.
- Adopt a plant--weed/flower/veggie-- plant it or find a perennial -sit with it and "listen". It's spirit will eventually talk to you and tell you its secrets. Keep it weeded, visit every day or as often as possible, bring gifts--especially at harvest time, read up on it, but also take equally seriously your own observances. This is easy for kids--adults find it weird at first, but then find it a most rewarding garden activity. For an adult, choosing a perennial is probably best, but for kids, time moves so slowly that even an annual will feel like a long held friend. This helps them see themselves as nurturers and partners/friends with plants--and the plant spirit acts as a role model of charity and as a mentor
- Have Faerie parties with small plates/cups, use plants as foods (plantain pods as "corn", yellow dock seeds in water to make "coffee", butter and egg plant(linnaria) as scrambled eggs. You might not like the tastes, but the faeries love it!
- Plant games-making holly hock dolls, playing "war" with plantain seed pods, listening for the "pop" of a squashed bladder campion, making a grass whistle or a small flute out of an elder branch, dressing up with lady's mantle hats and phlox petal fake fingernails, lipstick of berry juice and cherry earrings...that's the way to spend a summer day.
HERBS for the SPIRIT ~
When I think of feeling really great, I ALWAYS think of Lemon Balm. This is a lemony tasting member of the mint family, easy to grow and its light green/yellow color screams SUMMER FUN!!!. It is delicious hot or cold, but I prefer lemonade of this plant or usig it as a large spring in cold water as an afternoon picker upper. Kids love the taste above all other herbal teas. Try it--you will like it.
My other favorite is SUMAC berry Lemonade--this is not poison sumac, but rather, Staghorn Sumac. The berry "horns" form in mid/late summer and then the fuzzy berries turn red. This is a Native American plant that provides a great source of Vit. C over the winter or for colds. Once the berries are bright red, lay the staghorn on a paper outside for a day so any little critters can run away. Then, gently rub off the fuzz balls into a bag. To make the tea--use only COLD water and steep for no longer than 20 mins. I use small muslin garne bags or cheescloth to contain the little hairs. In any case, strain the tea before serving. It tastes and looks like pink lemonade. Some need a bit of sweetener, others, not. Maple syrup works well. Serve with little sandwiches for a faerie party
Body, Mind and Spirit- all equally important to the whole, healthy child~ but, life isn't perfect and kids get out of sorts and ill all the time. For indepth discussions of childhood concerns and illnesses, remedies, diets, theories of health, etc., consider the course offerings below....
ANY and ALL of the wonderful books by SHARON LOVEJOY-these are great activity books, fun to read and for anyone over 30, bring back lots of memories.
HERBALIST of YARROW by Shatoya DeLa Tour
A KID'S HERB BOOK by Leslie Tierra
SONG OF the 7 HERBS by Walking Night Bear and Stan Padilla
~Take Online Classes on this site about Children's Health: (*AVAILABLE SOON)
- Infant's and Children's Health
- Wholistic Healing For the Family
- Herbal Tea Parties for Kids
You May Also Be Interested in the Book:
"Wholistic Healing for the Family ~ A Primer" by Tina Finneyfrock, Master Herbalist