As an *aspiring* herbalist, I’m always looking for ways to pass down information to my kids. It’s amazing to me that up until a couple years ago, I had no idea about the numerous healing plants in my backyard, just WAITING to be used! I wish that I knew this stuff as a kid, but honestly I can look back and see that a budding herbalist was coursing through my veins. I have fond memories of being small, and making “potions” out of wild flowers and leaves from my backyard. Ha!
So it’s no wonder that now, as I continue to soak up knowledge about plants, that I want my kids to know too. Not only do I want them to have access to a database of natural medicine, but I also what to pass down the magical healing power of plants to future generations. It saddens me that we have lost our connection to the plants, and I feel like it is my own personal mission to make sure that it gets carried on throughout my bloodline.
The best part, of course, is that by teaching my kids, I’m helping myself too- we can learn together and we all benefit from it!
On my sacred quest to find out all I can about herbs, I’ve searched for good materials to use in our homeschool classroom and any herbal groups for kids in my area. Unfortunately, where I live there are not many outside sources to help us with this, and so, ONCE AGAIN I found myself looking online for answers.
Before You Start- Read This First!
Before I recommend my top picks, I want to stress the importance of three points about herbalism. This applies to everyone, adults as well as children, and can help you become more confident about learning everything green.
- Start small. It is better to spend more time on one herb and know 100 things about that herb, than to spend a small amount of time learning about 100 different herbs. I REPEAT, it is better to spend more time on one herb and know 100 things about that herb, than to spend a small amount of time learning about 100 different herbs. I stress this because as a beginner, you may try to jump around. This is understandable, especially if you are excited. However, if you start small, you will retain MORE information (and actually be able to use that info in the future!).
- Go slow. As mentioned above, starting small is key. Going slow allows you to really get to know that herb. For example, if you pick chickweed as your starter plant, learn everything you can about that ONE plant. What does it look like, how can you I.D. it, and what is it good for? Make a bunch of different products with it and see how versatile it is and how YOU like to use it.
- Explore local. The BEST plants are the ones in your own backyard. Find one healing plant within your reach and dive in! This will make your journey (and your kids journey) more fun and easier too! With an abundance of one herb, you don’t have to limit yourself to what you can make. Go bat-shit crazy and really explore what nature has to offer.
Top Resources for Teaching Kids About Herbs
Below are my favorite resources to use for teaching kids (and myself!) about herbs. I’ve purchased and used every one of these products, so I can tell you 100% that these have worked wonders for my family and I. If you have ANY additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me here and ask away!
1.A Kids’ Herb Book: For Children Of All Ages by Leslie Tierra.
This is a wonderful book because it’s easily digestible; breaking each herb down to kid terms. Included are herbal stories, songs, recipes, projects, and preparations of plants. It also has cute (black and white) drawn pictures of fairies, gnomes, and other child-friendly characters. I used the stories to help support the factual information, and it helped break up the “learning” aspect of it too. Plants covered in this book are: lemon balm, fennel, mullein, garlic, plantain, chamomile, comfrey, slippery elm, echinacea, licorice, ginger, elder, calendula, cinnamon, dandelion, and yarrow.
2. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
This is currently my FAVORITE herbal cookbook, and it’s perfect to use for your kids! I had the honor of meeting Mrs. Gladstar last October and hearing her speak- it was life-changing and I was absolutely moved to tears by her lecture. Rosemary continues to spread awareness about our rights to practice and use plants, and her contributions to the herbalist movement is outstanding. I wish I could go back in time and pay the extra $100 to get a private intensive with her…*sigh* but at least I have her book lol. From that point on I was hooked and devoured this little guide in an afternoon. The best part is that there are plenty of color photographs, with step-by-step instructions on herbal preparations. You could EASILY do a recipe (granted you had all the supplies) within 5 minutes of picking up this book! Plants covered in this book are: basil, cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, rosemary, sage, thyme, turmeric, aloe vera, burdock, calendula, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion, echinacea, elder, goldenseal, hawthorn, lavender, lemon balm, licorice, marsh mallow, mullein, nettle, oats, peppermint, plantain, red clover, st. johns wort, spearmint, valerian, and yarrow.
For a consistent “curriculum” to teach kids (and yourself!) about herbs, this is brilliant. Herb Fairies consists of a series of 12 books, one for each month of the year, and each featuring its own herbal fairy (the books together create one consistent story). The rhythm of the curriculum is to read one book a month, meanwhile learning additional information about the chosen herb with a specialty magazine that includes games, recipes, and worksheets, plus coloring sheets and a plant journal (all provided!). Many of the herbs can be found across the United States (there were only a couple I couldn’t find near me). Everything can be accessed online and you can order the books to be printed OR read them all on your kindle device or as a PDF. Plants covered in this curriculum are: chickweed, violet, plantain, lemon balm, chamomile, calendula, elder, marshmallow, burdock, pine, rose, cinnamon, and dandelion.
Update: Herb Fairies is BACK for a limited time! Get FREE recipes and more info by checking out this video here.
4. Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game (a cooperative board game) from Learning Herbs
To accompany your plant journey, this is a cute game from the creators of Herb Fairies. The object of the game is to reach the huckleberry bush and back to Grandma’s house before nightfall. While this won’t tell you the exact preparations of the herbs, it is somewhat of a matching game (for littles) and does help you learn about what herbs you can use for different ailments. It also teaches the beautiful versatility of the plant, which is cool. This isn’t a competitive game, so if your kids love intensity, then this isn’t for you lol. BUT, I really enjoyed the slow pace of play, and the fact that my 3 year old could participate with my two 11 year olds and I (and we all had fun!). It teaches children to help their siblings or friends, instead of just focusing on “winning”. Everyone wins when everyone helps each other, and I thought that was sweet and perfect for a rainy afternoon.
In Conclusion (Don’t Be Scared)
There was a time when I wanted to learn about herbs, but I was too overwhelmed by the amount of info (where to start, right!?!?!). Once I got my feet wet, and took things slow, I soon realized how EASY and BEAUTIFUL learning about plants is. Not only that, but sharing this experience with my children has been such a rich part of our lives. It’s funny because sometimes, when we are out in public, we all find ourselves looking around for edible medicinals. It’s not uncommon for my kids to say “Hey, Mommy, look!” and before you know it, we are all standing there trying to I.D. a flower in the grocery store parking lot.
I cannot ell you enough how much FEELING herbs has brought to our homeschool. I hope you too, let your heart melt to the wisdom and healing magic of the plants.