It’s not just grass!
If you’re a parent you’re likely looking ahead to the long summer holidays and wondering how to keep your kids amused. Being outside definitely helps and there are a huge number of benefits to getting involved with nature while you’re at it. With a move towards more outdoor learning, it’s something parents are turning to as well. Here are a few of my top activities with children in the outdoors.
Grass isn’t just grass!
Most of us think that the green areas around us are made up of ‘just’ grass. True if you have a manicured lawn, but what about in our parks and less tidy gardens. Is that really just one plant there? If your kids think it’s just grass, put down a hula hoop or circle of string and really look at what lies inside. You can often find up to 10 different plants. Some of them are even used as medicines!
Lawn daisy: the humble daisy is our native answer to arnica. Better still it’s not toxic. Known as bruisewort, daisy flowers can be infused in organic sunflower oil, strained off after a week and added to an unperfumed base cream to create a really soothing balm for bruises. What better than for kids to use medicine to feel better that they helped make themselves!
Plantain: this common wayside plant has two forms – long thin leaves and more rounded ones. The key thing to look for are the ribs on the leaves and the brown flower heads. This plant is named for the plantar surface, or sole of your foot, and was brought here by Roman soldiers who lined their sandals with them to stop them from getting blisters. You can use it like that today when you are out hillwalking, or if you get stung by nettles or midges simply roll up a leaf between your fingers until it feels juicy and apply.
Dandelion: who doesn’t love a dandelion clock? It is the only plant that resembles the sun (flowerhead), moon (seedhead), and stars (individual seeds), and our ancestors used to remember plants by grouping them under different planets. The leaves can be eaten in salad and the root can be scrubbed, chopped, roasted, and used to make dandelion coffee. Of course, the sap in the hollow stem can also be used as invisible ink… but just watch out for clothes!
There is so much more than just grass out there – and when you start to look, I guarantee you’ll become as hooked as the kids. And that’s even before looking up and finding the delights of elderflower (amazing tempura) and rose petals (unbelievable jam). No matter where you live there will be a patch of green goodness near you. Of course, basic safety applies – make sure you are picking the right thing and if there are dogs walking where you are or it is close to a road, limit yourself just to looking and be on the hunt for a clean, safe area to pick from and experiment.