Does your child display an interest in plants and gardening? If so, this is a great opportunity to nurture that interest, and it also provides an activity you can enjoy together. However, while you may understand the ins and outs of successful gardening, a child who is just starting out doesn’t. Therefore, it’s recommended to start them off with hardy plants that are easy to grow, such as kitchen herbs. They grow rapidly, are tolerant to neglect and pests and can be purchased as pre-started plants, which makes them ideal for children. Here are some tips for growing your own kid-friendly kitchen herbs.
Accounting for Kids’ Tastes
It’s widely understood that a child’s taste buds aren’t as developed as an adult’s, so many flavors might not sit well with them. It’s important to keep this in mind when you and your child are selecting herbs to grow. Some common kitchen herbs like cilantro, nasturtium and rosemary may be too strange or intense for a child’s tastes. Those like mint, basil, oregano and lavender are generally more mild. However, if your child likes the smell of a particular herb, chances are that they’ll enjoy its flavor as well.
Make It Fun
Children like everything to be fun, and this is something you can easily incorporate into growing kitchen herbs. For instance, if you’re growing herbs in pots, why not have your child paint their own designs on them? They could even repurpose other objects for use as herb pots, such as lined baskets, unfinished ceramic or clay bowls, metal pails and even milk cartons. If you’re opting to start kitchen herb seeds indoors and transplant them outside, ask your child to find some different items that can be used as temporary biodegradable pots. Toilet paper tubes, paper egg cartons, eggshells and paper cups are all good choices. Once the seedlings are ready to go outside, you can place the pot directly into the ground. As the material breaks down, it will provide the plant with nourishment.
Lessons in Plant Care
Growing kitchen herbs is a perfect way to start familiarizing your child with basic plant care responsibilities. Indeed, these lessons in responsibility can carry over into other aspects of their daily lives, helping them become more confident and self-sufficient individuals as they grow up.
Start by teaching your child how to tell when a plant needs water. When this happens, plants tend to become drab in color and will look wilted. Let your child know that they’ll need to check on them once per day to see if they need watered. If you’re growing herbs indoors, it may be helpful to measure out an appropriate amount of water into a pitcher or glass and leave it next to the plants. Young children in particular may have a tendency to over-water, thinking they’re doing the plants a favor. If herbs are being grown outdoors, teach your child the appropriate times to water. Generally, this should only be done in the early morning or late evening.
Select Different Varieties
Kid-friendly kitchen herbs go far beyond the traditional options like peppermint and fennel. Take your child on a trip to a local plant nursery to see what varieties of herbs are available. Some especially interesting varieties that kids will love include chocolate mint, spearmint, lemon balm, orange mint and purple basil. Depending on which USDA agricultural zone you’re located in, you could even try exotic herbs like lemongrass, saffron and anise. These are easy to grow, but require longer growing seasons.
Enjoying the Results
Naturally, your child is going to want to experience the fruits of his or her labor. Fortunately, this is easy to do with a little help from you. A couple of fun ideas for recipes involving kid-friendly herbs are drinks and desserts. In the cooler seasons, a cup of hot spearmint tea is a pleasant way to warm up. In the summer, you and your child can cool off with some freshly minced chocolate mint in vanilla ice cream. Herbs like lemon balm and orange mint are great for tossing into a blender with crushed ice and fruit juice. Feel free to let them explore different ideas and flavor combinations to enhance their interest.
Kitchen herbs are the perfect way to introduce kids to the wonders and benefits of gardening and cooking. With a little gentle guidance and some room for experimentation and curiosity, you and your child can enjoy not only quality time together but also a greater appreciation for the world of herbs.