Do you use foraging or wildcrafting with kids as part of your homeschooling? We do. When the warmer weather rolls around, we start our summer homeschool routine. And instead of spending hours curled up with workbooks and our favorite read-aloud, we're spending more time outdoors as a family.
We're fishing, gardening, finishing homestead projects, welcoming new homeschooling and homesteading families, and stacking wood. Plus we're expanding our foraging and wildcrafting skills as a family.
Whether you live in a city, suburb, or out in the country, here are a few tips for foraging and wildcrafting with kids to help you make the most of your own family's foraging adventures.
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#1. Research What's Growing in Your Area
What wild vegetables, berries, roots, shoots, and leaves grow wild in your neck of the woods? Spend some time learning about what you can safely forage before you head outdoors.
If you live in a city, try some urban foraging. Remind your children not to forage on private property, near areas with heavy traffic, or in parks where it says "don't pick the flowers!"
As with most of our outdoor homeschooling activities, we use foraging to teach our children life skills. One of my first tips for wildcrafting with kids is to use several different research methods to find out what you can gather. And also what's in season in your area.
Researching before foraging for edible greens, herbs, or berries can help kids with skills including:
- reading and vocabulary
- finding local sources such as locating your area agriculture office, university/college extension programs, and experts, or even a museum with records or details of local natural history
- communication skills - encourage your children to talk to older relatives, neighbors, community members about what they used to gather wild when they were kids
- listening comprehension
- local, state/provincial, country-wide and global geography and social studies (what's your province or state flower, and does it grow near you? What is it used for?
- observation/plant and leaf recognition - what's growing where and when is it ready to forage? Is it safe to forage? Are there any endangered wildflowers in your area?
Help your child research online as well. Sites like Wild Edibles Ontario, Northern Bushcraft, and even Mother Earth News have tons of easy-to-understand information on foraging and wildcrafting across North America.
#2. Crafts for Wildcrafting With Kids
If your kids are anything like mine, they want to know "why." As in "why are we battling a bazillion mosquitoes to pick wild rose flower petals?" Since the girls chose to make Rose Petal Bath Salts before foraging, they were better prepared to stick it out when the bugs got really, really bad.
When wildcrafting, brainstorm ways to use your foraged materials before foraging with kids. We also race to see who can pick the most in a 30-minute session.
Some of the ways to wildcraft with foraged greenery, flowers, and herbs include:
- cosmetics -bath salts, lip balms, lotions, creams, and in our homemade goat milk soaps
- recipes - canning, preserving, cooking, baking, pickling
- medicine - salves, ointments, teas, poultices
- crafts/gifts/tools - art work, potpourri, bookmarks, Christmas and holiday decorations
CAUTION: Children should be supervised at all times when foraging and wildcrafting. Not everything that grows wild is safe to touch or eat. Review safe foraging practices with your kids before gathering wild edibles and flowers and making cosmetics, recipes, medicines, and crafts.
My friend Heidi over at Healing Harvest Homestead has a whole bunch of herbal wildcrafting projects you could try. Colleen at Grow Forage Cook Ferment also has several kid-friendly herbal crafting activities on her site.
And if you want to try something really simple, check out our Wildflower Bookmark Tutorial Pack.
#3. Make Foraging & Wildcrafting a Family Tradition
Does your family have special holiday traditions? When you make wildcrafting with kids a regular "thing" in your family, it becomes part of your family routine, culture, and traditions. Just like heading out to get a Christmas tree together. Or always having pancakes for Sunday breakfast.
Depending on your lifestyle and where you live, you could plan your foraging and wildcrafting by season or even by month.
Tip: Read this to learn how we use outdoor subscription boxes for homeschooling year-round.
For example, we know that in our area, June is the month for poplar buds and spruce tips. And mosquitoes.
Late June and early July bring wild rose petals, fireweed, plantain, and chickweed, among others. And mosquitoes.
Late July is time for wild raspberries (perfect for freezer raspberry jam) and strawberries, plus Labrador Tea.
By August we're foraging wild rosehips for syrup, tea, and jelly. In September we're experimenting with using our foraged materials in new recipes. Or adapting our favorites, like this homemade natural beeswax lip balm recipe with an orange spiced cider flavor.
#4. Garble, Prep and Store What You Gather
Don't let all the hard work of foraging go to waste. One of the most fun parts of wildcrafting with kids (according to my kids) is harvesting, preparing, and storing what you gathered.
After you bring in your foraged flowers, berries, leaves, etc. , it's time to garble.
Garbling is simply removing all the pieces that you don't need for your projects. However, before putting your waste materials in the compost, double-check their uses. You might discover the leaves you were ready to toss out can be used to flavor oil or pounded down to make a salve for your home apothecary.
Once garbling is over, go ahead with whatever wildcrafting activity/project your family has chosen. Then you're ready to use it, gift it, store it, or even sell whatever you've made.
#5. Use a Wildcrafting Journal and Keep Foraging Records
Even when we aren't working on "formal" schoolwork, like most homeschooling and homesteading families we see learning opportunities everywhere. Foraging and wildcrafting with children is just chock-full of hands-on lessons.
Yet I also wanted to incorporate some writing activities into our wildcrafting adventures. That's why I created our new Foraging and Wildcrafting Journals, Coloring Sheets, Copywork Pack, and Monthly Foraging Pack. They're available individually in our online shop or as part of our Foraging & Wildcrafting With Kids Bundle.
When you're foraging and wildcrafting with kids, get them involved in each step, from researching to gathering wild greens right through to the preparation and storage. This hands-on learning gives them a chance to learn a valuable skill. And it can also give them great memories of fun family times spent together outdoors.