Once upon a time two little foxes were playing in the forest on a cloudy and kind of grey looking day. The foxes were having obstacle course races running across the field, jumping over logs, climbing over rocks and diving under branches as fast as they could. At first they couldn’t go very fast but after a few tries they got really good at rolling, running and jumping all around the field.
They were starting to get tired and decided to have one last race before they headed back to their burrow for a snack. Ready…set….go! They ran off together crawled under a bush and only one of them came out the other side. Noticing she’d lost her friend the little fox ran back to the bush to see what had happened.
The other little fox had gotten caught on a branch and gave himself a big scrape all down his side. He was sitting under the bush and tending to his wound.
“I know what to do!” the little fox said. “I’ll find some golden rod or yarrow to help heal your cut.” She ran off in search of the special plants. Before long she returned with a sprig of goldenrod in her teeth.
Now foxes don’t have hands, or tools or pots and so they can’t really make a salve or a tincture like people can but they do have teeth. The little fox chewed up that goldenrod flower and instead of swallowing she licked her friends wound spreading the mushed up flower all over it.
He was feeling a little better, having rested for a while, and the two of them got up and trotted back to their den where they hoped to find some tasty treats for a snack.
Did you like that story?
Do you know about the plants the foxes used in the story? Goldenrod and Yarrow.
They both grow in Peterson Creek park.
Do you have those plants in your yard? Another plant that can be used to heal cuts is called Calendula. It’s kind of like a marigold but less fluffy. Maybe you grow calendula in your yard? Here is what the plants look like. Have you seen them before?
I wonder if you can make a healing potion like the fox did?
Maybe you can use a jar like I did instead of chewing it up in your teeth.
For my potion I used dandelions and they turned my water yellow.
I can make several potions that all do different things and mix them all together for a super charged healing potion! What kind of creation can you make?
To the grownup:
All of the plants mentioned here are non-toxic and so if your child were to drink it there would be no harm. However many yards and landscapes do contain poisonous plants that could be harmful if ingested.
It’s important to have ongoing conversations with your child about not eating plants they don’t know the name of 110%.
On the same token it is also important to value and nourish your child’s emerging identification skills. If they can ID it confidently it’s time to challenge them to keep them humble and on their toes. Also from keeping over confidence from harming them. There are many many look alikes out there in the natural world. Your challenge is to find one and see if you and your child can spot the differences. It will teach them caution and to look closely at the details of a plant.
I often share a very true story of my own children’s journey with plant identification….
Years ago when they were in Grade 1 and 4 they went to a new school. This school had a restored wetland and school garden boxes! Wonderful. My daughter, then 9 years old and a skilled plant identifier, discovered a large patch of mint growing outside one of the classrooms in the garden box. She and her brother then proceeded to share their knowledge with their school yard friends and soon many children were foraging for mint and talking excitedly about what other plants they might find that they could eat.
These children clearly recognized that there were some plants that were edible and some….not so much.
A few days later parent wandered onto the school yard and saw the children eating the mint. She panicked and marched herself to the office to express her concern for the children’s well-being.
By the following day the mint patch was gone and all that remained in the school garden boxes was dirt.
My daughter was seriously upset and many of the children didn’t understand what happened. They KNEW this plant. They had formed a relationship with it over those few days, some of them remembered planting it when they were younger. The conversation hadn’t been this lively in months.
An opportunity for deep meaningful learning, at a school, was completely missed and even eroded the emerging confidence of some of these young learners. This fear based education is the state of things and why you and I and many other parents working so hard to restore this knowledge of the plant world to our children.
So if your child comes to you excited to tell you all about a plant they can eat get excited with them!
And if you are concerned quiz them. Ask questions.
How do you know?
What do you notice?
What do it’s leaves look like?
What shape are they?
How many petals does the flower have?
How do the leaves grow?
What does it smell like?
Many children first learn plants based on their location, which is totally ok! Challenge them to find the same plant somewhere else. It is a skill that will serve them well throughout their entire lives.
Congrats for reading this far!
You get a bonus activity.
Bring the potion making inside with some coloured water, vinegar and baking soda.
I’ve also included a pipette in your kit this week. You will be floored at how long your child stays engaged with this tool.
Find a tray with a deep lip, gather some jars and set up some exploration and fun for your child.