Herbs are filled with rich histories. They’re extremely adaptable and have a variety of uses in the garden and elsewhere. Herbs also offer kids a unique learning tool through their multiple sensory characteristics from fabulous fragrances and tastes to wonderful textures and visual traits. Consider using an herb garden to stimulate their senses. The herb garden can be used as a tool for learning about history, cooking, crafts, and more.
How to Grow Herbs
Using themes for growing herbs is a great way to keep kids interested. Grow herbs that correspond with the chosen theme and choose herbs can be easily grown in the garden, in the classroom, in a windowsill, or in a container. They can be grown from seeds, which are very common, or from plant cuttings.
A great way to grow herbs with kids is by seeds. Make a mini herb greenhouse. Sprinkle herb seeds in a small cup or pot filled with potting soil and lightly cover them. Mist the soil with water from a spray bottle or small watering can, then cover the top with some cling film and place in a sunny location, such as a windowsill. Remove the plastic wrap once the sprouts begin popping up and thin seedlings as necessary. Once the herbs are large enough, have the kids transplant them to the outdoor garden. Most herbs share similar growing requirements in the garden. Place them in a sunny location in well-drained soil.
Ideas for Learning about Herbs
Aromatic herbs make a wonderful teaching focus for kids. The fragrances of many herbs were once used to mask unattractive odours, keeping the home and even one’s body smelling fresh. These are still used today in items like perfume, potpourri, lotion, etc. Encourage the kids to plant a fragrant herb garden, which might include herbs like rosemary, chamomile, lavender, thyme, or mint.
Help kids come up with ways for creating their own fragrances from their favourite herbs. For instance, make some potpourri sachets by placing dried herbs in fabric pouches. After harvesting their herbs, have the kids use rubber bands to bundle them together and hang until dry. Once the herbs have dried completely, they can be crushed and placed in pouches and tied with a fancy bow.
Perhaps the kids would enjoy a tasty, culinary herb garden filled with a variety of seasoning herbs. Choose a theme like a Spaghetti or Pizza herb garden. Great choices here include oregano, basil, parsley, and garlic. Once the herbs have been harvested, use them in making a culinary dish.
Before there were food stores or even nearby medical facilities, people had to rely on other methods for seasoning foods or curing sickness. Many herbal remedies were also once used for treating anything from common colds and other illnesses to wounds and rashes. In many cultures, such herbal practices still exist.
Teach kids about herbs as well as some history by challenging them to travel back in time. Have them find out about the uses of herbs for a specific period of time such as the Victorian era, the middle Ages, etc. How and why were herbs of that time important? What were their uses? This could be geared toward one specific use like for culinary purposes or for a variety of purposes such as remedies, cosmetics, crafts, food, etc. Create a garden using herbs from a specific period, such as a Colonial herb garden. Grow sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and others from this period.
Have kids identify and list some of the characteristics that set herbs aside from other plants. For instance, an herb is a plant harvested for a specific reason or use. It may be used for flavouring food, or for its pleasing fragrance. An herb might be used for medicinal purposes, such as an ointment for rashes.
Send the kids on a scavenger hunt for herbs in the garden or along a nature trail. Have them locate herbs that have a specific smell or taste, like mint or onion. Ask them to find an herb that is used in a specific recipe, like oregano or parsley. Perhaps the kids might benefit from locating an herb that looks a certain way. Have them locate an herb with feathery foliage, such as dill. Send them on a journey for herbs of a particular colour or shape.
Ask specific questions. For instance, what herb is useful for treating minor cuts and burns? This, of course, would be aloe. Can you find an herb that is used for repelling insects? Garlic and spearmint are good choices. What herb was once used as a hair tonic for covering grey? That would be sage. As there are so many different uses and characteristics of herbs, the possibilities can be endless.