The great outdoors and nature is something that kids have a strong affinity with. Nature trails and outdoor activities give kids hours of joy. Take it that step further by introducing them, and yourself even, to foraging. The whole process of foraging – from stepping out in to the “wilds” so to speak, picking wild edibles through to cooking with what you forage – is fun for children.
Foraging too is a great way to introduce kids from a young age not only to be respectful of nature but how resourceful it is, and as they grow, eating greens and being green even will become second nature to them.
You don’t need to be a dab hand at foraging to give it a go. Neither do you have to be in the countryside, there are plants, weeds and things that you can pick in the midst of cities even. You may be aware already that some plants grow by the roadside, but this is not advisable when foraging with kids for obvious safety reasons as well as for not wanting to eat plants that have grown in the thick of pollution as it were.
First things first, get yourself some reference books on foraging. You will need this as a guide to identify what the plants, seeds, nuts and fruits are. Check your local library for foraging guides specific to your area, providing you with a reference tool of what is available plant-wise in your area. Check on the internet too and mobile phone apps for reference tools.
Kids are curious by nature and when it comes to foraging, there are safety issues, so you will need to set some ground rules with them. Your kids need to know the ground rules before you’ve even set out of the door.
There are poisonous plants and ones that sting, stinging nettles being obvious ones. Your kids need to be made aware not to touch or eat anything until they have checked with you – meaning you put your green fingers hat on, as it were, and get your guide book out and identify what it is before they even go there. Everything needs to be identified before they can even pick – meaning they need to know it’s safe before they pick. If a plant, fruit or seed ain’t in your reference book, leave the mystery ones alone and move on.
Rules of thumb
Foraging rules of thumb are not just applicable to kids, but to adults alike. That said, it may help to do a test run first without your children. Get yourself familiar with the plot you plan to forage in. That way you become attuned to working with the nature in that area – you know what’s there, what to keep the mitts off of and patches that your children will enjoy engaging with (look for colours, bright flowers, berries, etc).
Foraging can be a fun activity for children so treat it as a treasure hunt and do some role playing along the way. Get the kids kitted up before you leave the home. This is where those beach accessories that get used minimally throughout the year come in handy. Plastic buckets and spades (not to say you are gonna be digging plants out from the roots) and a pair of gloves will be useful. Any “treasures” they find can be placed in their buckets.
Another rule of thumb which is very important to foraging is to give gratitude to the very things that you pick. Don’t be greedy. Pick only what you need. And make sure your kids are aware of this too. Get them into the practice of giving gratitude by turning that act into rhymes or sing songs even. It don’t need to be prayer and sermon. Encourage them to make up their own gratitude rhymes. “Hey mama earth, thank you for your blackberries. I’m going to make a big pie with them and put a big smiley face on it to thank you”. Whatever comes intuitively to your kids and yourself even.
Once you get home, get the kids involved in helping you cook your foraged goods. Be creative and if there’s not enough to cook something with, get some plates out instead and get the kids to arrange the plants, berries or whatever you have picked into a “painting” on the plates.
Once they are finished with arranging their wild edibles on the plate, take photos of their “artwork” and then let them eat their wild edibles. You could even create a scrapbook of your foraging trip, including photos and dried flowers even.
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a journalist who writes about sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com