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Exploring the World of Herbs: A Fun and Educational Guide for Kids

Jun 12, 2024

Imagine the delight on a child's face as they witness a tiny seedling grow into a herb ready to be harvested and added to a meal. Engaging in gardening with children not only creates these moments but also imparts valuable life lessons. Herbs serve as a starting point, for aspiring gardeners due to their ease of cultivation, versatility and ability to provide a sense of achievement in a relatively short period.

Herbs represent more than plants; they stand as powerhouses of taste and nutrients that can ignite a lifelong passion for gardening and healthy eating. By introducing kids to the realm of herbs you equip them with the knowledge of food sources foster an appreciation for the effort put into cultivation and cultivate an understanding of stewardship.

This article serves as your companion in exploring the world of herbs with children. Whether you're a parent, grandparent or educator you'll discover advice, enjoyable activities and valuable insights to guide you on this journey. From choosing the herbs and planting them to harvesting and incorporating them into dishes we'll address all you need to create an engaging and educational herb gardening experience, for kids.
Alright lets get started and explore the world of growing herbs – a rewarding experience that both children and adults can enjoy!

Why Grow Herbs with Kids?

Educational Benefits

Growing herbs with kids is a wonderful way to combine hands-on learning with outdoor fun. Here are some key educational benefits:

  • Understanding Plant Biology and Life Cycles: As children plant seeds, water them, and watch them grow, they learn about the various stages of a plant's life cycle. This hands-on experience helps them grasp complex biological concepts in a tangible way.
  • Learning Responsibility and Patience: Caring for living plants teaches children about responsibility. They learn that plants need regular watering, sunlight, and attention to thrive, fostering a sense of patience and dedication.

Nutritional Awareness

Herb gardening is also an excellent tool for teaching kids about nutrition and healthy eating habits:

  • Teaching About Healthy Eating Habits: By growing their own herbs, kids become more interested in the food they eat. They are more likely to try new flavors and incorporate fresh, healthy ingredients into their meals.
  • Showing How Herbs Enhance Flavor: Herbs are a natural way to add flavor to food without relying on salt, sugar, or artificial additives. Children learn how different herbs can transform simple dishes, making them more appealing and nutritious.

Environmental Connection

Introducing children to herb gardening fosters a deep connection with nature and promotes sustainable living practices:

  • Encouraging an Appreciation for Nature: As kids spend time caring for their herb garden, they develop a greater appreciation for the natural world. They learn about the importance of plants, pollinators, and ecosystems.
  • Promoting Sustainability and Green Living: Herb gardening teaches children about sustainable practices, such as composting, water conservation, and organic gardening. These lessons can inspire a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship.

Social and Emotional Benefits

Gardening can also have positive effects on a child's social and emotional well-being:

  • Enhancing Family Bonding: Gardening together provides a unique opportunity for families to bond. It’s a shared activity that fosters communication, cooperation, and mutual enjoyment.
  • Boosting Confidence and Self-Esteem: Successfully growing herbs can boost a child's confidence and self-esteem. Seeing the tangible results of their efforts can be incredibly rewarding and empowering.

Growing herbs with kids is not just about cultivating plants; it's about nurturing young minds and hearts. By teaching children to grow their own herbs, you're instilling important life skills, fostering a love for healthy eating, and promoting a deeper connection to the environment.

Starting a Herb Garden for Beginners

Picking the Perfect Herbs

Selecting the herbs is key to ensuring an enjoyable gardening experience for children. Here are some easy to grow herbs that are ideal for those just starting out;:

  • Basil: A herb that works well in pasta salads and pesto. It grows quickly. Does best in warmer weather.
  • Mint: Known for its flavor, mint is resilient. Can thrive in various environments. It's perfect for making teas and desserts too.
  • Chives: With their mild onion taste, chives are simple to grow, and can be snipped fresh to garnish dishes.
  • Parsley: This herb is not only nutritious but simple to grow too. It's great for garnishing and enhancing a variety of dishes.

Also consider herbs that can be grown indoors or outdoors to suit living arrangements:

  • Indoor-Friendly Herbs: Basil, chives, and mint can all be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill.
  • Outdoor Herbs: Herbs, like rosemary and thyme prefer gardens but can also do well in pots.

Materials Required

Before you begin your gardening project make sure you have all the necessary items, for a gardening experience:

  • Basic Gardening Tools: Consider using child tools like small trowels watering cans and gardening gloves.
  • Containers vs. Garden Beds: Determine whether you want to use pots raised beds or a traditional garden plot. Containers work well for spaces. Offer flexibility in movement.
  • Soil and Compost: Opt for quality potting soil and compost to supply nutrients to your herbs. Choosing organic options is ideal for promoting a healthy garden.

Safety Precautions

Gardening can be enjoyable but it's crucial to prioritize safety especially when kids are involved:

  • Tool Handling: Educate children on the correct ways to use and store gardening tools. Select tools with edges and handles tailored for children.
  • Selecting Safe Plants for Kids: Ensure that the herbs and any other plants in your garden are non toxic and child friendly. Avoid plants, with thorns or those that may cause skin irritation.

Setting Up the Garden

Creating an practical garden area is crucial, for a herb gardening journey:

  • Selecting the Perfect Spot: Pick a sunny location for your herb garden as most herbs thrive with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.
  • Preparing the Soil: When planting in the ground make sure the soil is well drained and enriched with organic matter. For containers opt for quality soil, but avoid all chemical fertilizers. Organically made soil are the best.
  • Layout and Design: Plan out how you want your garden to look. Group together herbs that have the same water and sunlight requirements. Consider the height and spread of each plant to prevent overcrowding.

Embarking on an herb garden with children is a venture that requires some preparation and forethought. By selecting herbs gathering supplies and creating a safe and inviting atmosphere you pave the way, for a fulfilling gardening experience. Whether you choose container gardening or traditional beds these initial steps will set you and your young gardeners up for success.

Planting and Caring for Herbs

Starting from Seeds or Seedlings

Deciding whether to start with seeds or seedlings depends on the age and experience level of the young gardeners. And it also depends on the herb type:

  • Starting from Seeds:

    • Step-by-Step Guide:
      1. Choose the Seeds: Select easy-to-grow herbs like basil, parsley, coriander, and dill. Annual or biannual herbs are usually easy to start from seeds. 
      2. Prepare the Containers: Fill small pots or seed trays with potting soil.
      3. Plant the Seeds: Some people follow the instructions on the seed packet for depth and spacing. And they typically plant seeds about 1/4 inch deep. I'd like to keep things as simple as possible so I always sprinkle annual herb seeds, spreading them evenly around on the soil surface. I grow them bushy and dense and don't worry about spacing them much.
      4. Water Gently: Moisten the soil without overwatering. Best way to water to prevent over and under-watering is to water from below by placing a dish under the pot and pouring water in the dish. The plants will take as much water as they need and leave the excess behind.
      5. Provide Light: Place the containers in a sunny spot or under grow lights.
      6. Monitor Growth: Keep the soil moist and watch for sprouts. Different seeds grow at different rate. But usually they should appear in a week or two.
    • Advantages of Using Seeds:
      • Cost-effective: Especially if you are looking for organic herbs, finding organic seeds is easier and a lot less expensive than organic plants.
      • Educational experience watching the entire growth process is simply priceless.
  • Using Seedlings:

    • Step-by-Step Guide:
      1. Purchase Seedlings: Buy healthy seedlings from a nursery or garden center. I usually recommend seedlings for perennial herbs such as mint, oregano or rosemary. These herbs are harder to grow from seed and they take a very long time too.
      2. Prepare the Planting Area: Whether using containers or garden beds, ensure the soil is ready.
      3. Plant the Seedlings: Dig a hole large enough for the root ball, place the seedling in the hole, and cover with soil.
      4. Water Well: Give the seedlings a good drink of water after planting.
    • Advantages of Using Seedlings:
      • Faster results, which can be encouraging for young children.
      • Easier and less delicate process than starting from seeds

Daily Care Routines

Caring for herbs is straightforward and provides a great routine for kids to follow:

  • Watering Schedules:

    • Consistency: Most herbs need to be watered regularly but prefer slightly dry conditions between watering. Teach kids to check the soil moisture by feeling it with their fingers.
    • Amount: Water thoroughly but avoid waterlogging the soil. Containers should have drainage holes to prevent standing water.
    • Best method: I recommend sub-irrigation, which means watering from below. It allows plants to take as much water as they want and leave the rest behind, which prevents waterlogging and drought.  
  • Sunlight Requirements:

    • Light Needs: Most herbs need 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Position the garden in a sunny spot or use grow lights if you have no sunny windows indoors.
    • Monitoring: Teach children to observe how the plants respond to light and adjust placement if needed.
  • Simple Weeding and Maintenance Tasks:

    • Weeding: Show kids how to gently remove weeds that compete with herbs for nutrients and space.
    • Pruning: Explain the importance of pruning herbs to promote healthy growth and prevent legginess. Simple snipping of leaves for use can also act as pruning.

Fun Activities

Making herb gardening fun can keep kids engaged and interested:

  • DIY Herb Markers:

    • Use craft sticks, stones, or recycled materials to create personalized herb markers. Let kids decorate them with paint, markers, or stickers.
  • Creating a Watering Chart:

    • Make a colorful chart to track watering schedules. Kids can take turns marking off the days they water the plants.
  • Decorating Pots and Garden Areas:

    • Allow kids to paint and decorate plant pots. Use stencils, stickers, or freehand designs to personalize their garden space.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Help kids learn problem-solving by addressing common herb gardening issues:

  • Pest Control: Show children how to spot common pests like aphids or caterpillars. Introduce natural pest control methods such as using natural homemade sprays or encouraging beneficial insects such as ladybugs by planting diversly.
  • Disease Management: Teach kids to recognize signs of plant diseases like mold or leaf spots. Explain how good quality soil, proper and consistent watering, proper spacing, and cleanliness can prevent these issues.

Planting and caring for herbs involves simple yet engaging tasks that children can easily manage. Whether starting from seeds or seedlings, daily routines like watering, providing sunlight, and occasional weeding teach kids responsibility and care. Fun activities and troubleshooting common problems add to the excitement and educational value, ensuring a positive and rewarding herb gardening experience.


Harvesting and Using Herbs

When and How to Harvest

Harvesting herbs is a rewarding part of the gardening process, and it's important to do it correctly to ensure continuous growth:

  • Signs That Herbs Are Ready:

    • Basil: Harvest leaves once the plant is 6-8 inches tall. Pick leaves from the top to encourage bushier growth.
    • Mint: Start harvesting when the plant reaches 4 inches in height. Regular trimming promotes a fuller plant.
    • Chives: Snip leaves when they are about 6 inches tall. Use scissors to cut at the base.
    • Parsley: Begin harvesting outer leaves when the plant is 6-8 inches tall, leaving the inner leaves to continue growing.
  • Proper Techniques for Harvesting:

    • Using Scissors or Pruning Shears: Teach kids to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to avoid damaging the plants.
    • Pinching: For herbs like basil, pinch the leaves off between your thumb and forefinger.

Using Herbs in the Kitchen

Incorporating freshly harvested herbs into cooking can be a delightful experience for kids:

  • Kid-Friendly Recipes:

    • Basil Pesto: Blend fresh basil leaves with olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and nuts (like pine nuts or walnuts) to create a simple, delicious pesto. Serve with pasta or as a dip.
    • Mint Lemonade: Mix fresh mint leaves with lemon juice, water, and a bit of honey or sugar for a refreshing drink.
    • Chive Cream Cheese: Combine chopped chives with cream cheese for a tasty spread on bagels or crackers.
  • Making Herbal Teas:

    • Simple Herbal Infusions: Steep fresh mint, chamomile, or lemon balm leaves in hot water for a few minutes to create soothing teas. Sweeten with honey if desired.

Craft Projects

Herbs can also be used in various craft projects, adding another layer of fun to gardening:

  • Herb Sachets:

    • Materials Needed: Small fabric bags, dried herbs (like lavender, rosemary, or mint), ribbon.
    • Instructions: Fill the fabric bags with dried herbs and tie them closed with ribbon. These sachets can be used to scent drawers, closets, or even as natural air fresheners.
  • Homemade Herbal Bath Products:

    • Herb Bath Bombs: Mix baking soda, citric acid, cornstarch, and Epsom salts with dried herbs and essential oils. Mold the mixture into shapes and let them dry. Kids will love using these in their baths or giving them as gifts.
    • Herbal Bath Salts: Combine Epsom salts with dried herbs and essential oils. Store in jars and add to bathwater for a relaxing soak.

Additional Tips for Enjoying and Preserving Herbs

To make the most of your herb harvest, consider these tips:

  • Storing Fresh Herbs: Wrap fresh herbs in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. This keeps them fresh for up to a week.
  • Drying Herbs: Hang small bunches of herbs upside down in a cool, dry place. Once dry, store them in airtight containers.
  • Freezing Herbs: Chop herbs and place them in ice cube trays with water or olive oil. Freeze and use as needed in cooking.

Harvesting and using herbs is an exciting culmination of the gardening process that allows children to see the fruits of their labor. By learning when and how to harvest, incorporating herbs into simple recipes, and engaging in fun craft projects, kids can fully appreciate the versatility and benefits of growing their own herbs.

Learning and Exploration Activities

Herb Identification Games

Making herb identification fun and interactive can help children learn to recognize different herbs and understand their uses:

  • Scent and Touch Tests:

    • Blindfolded Guessing Game: Blindfold children and have them smell or touch different herbs. Let them guess which herb it is based on scent and texture.
    • Herb Matching Game: Create cards with pictures and names of herbs. Lay out real herbs and have kids match them with the correct cards.
  • Herb Scavenger Hunts:

    • Garden Hunt: Create a list of herbs for kids to find in the garden. Give them clues or descriptions to guide their search.
    • Kitchen Hunt: Hide small bunches of herbs around the kitchen or house. Provide hints to help kids locate each herb.

Science Experiments

Conducting simple science experiments with herbs can enhance children’s understanding of plant biology and environmental science:

  • Growing Herbs in Different Conditions:

    • Light Experiment: Plant the same herb in three different pots. Place one in full sunlight, one in partial shade, and one in a dark area. Observe and record the differences in growth over time.
    • Water Experiment: Water one plant regularly, one sparingly, and one excessively. Monitor the effects on the plants' health and growth.
  • Observing Root Growth:

    • Clear Container Experiment: Plant herbs in clear containers or plastic cups. Observe and document the root growth. Kids can draw pictures or take photos to create a growth journal.

Cultural Exploration

Exploring how herbs are used in different cultures can broaden children’s horizons and foster a greater appreciation for diversity:

  • Herbs in World Cuisines:

    • Cooking International Dishes: Select a few global recipes that use herbs (e.g., Italian basil pesto, Thai mint salad, Mexican cilantro salsa). Cook these dishes together and discuss the cultural significance of each herb.
    • Herb Passport: Create a “herb passport” for kids to stamp or sticker each time they use an herb from a different country. Include fun facts about each herb and its cultural uses.
  • Stories and Folklore About Herbs:

    • Reading Together: Find books or stories that feature herbs, such as fairy tales or legends. Discuss the role of herbs in these stories and their historical uses.
    • Creating Herb Folklore: Encourage kids to create their own stories or fairy tales involving herbs. This can be a fun way to blend creativity with learning about plant history.

Additional Activities

Integrating herbs into various hands-on activities keeps the learning process dynamic and enjoyable:

  • Herb Journal: Keep a journal of the herb gardening experience. Have kids draw pictures, write observations, and paste photos or dried leaves.
  • Cooking Challenges: Host a family cooking challenge where kids create a dish using their homegrown herbs. Judge based on creativity, presentation, and taste.
  • Herb Art: Use herbs to create natural artwork. Press leaves and flowers in a book to make herb prints or use them as paintbrushes with natural dyes.

By engaging kids in herb identification games, science experiments, and cultural exploration activities, you can enhance their learning experience and make herb gardening even more enjoyable. These activities not only teach children about the practical uses of herbs but also instill a deeper appreciation for nature, science, and cultural diversity. With these fun and educational projects, kids can fully immerse themselves in the world of herbs and develop a lifelong love for gardening.

In Conclusion...

Growing herbs with kids is more than just a gardening project; it’s an enriching journey that cultivates knowledge, responsibility, and a love for nature. From the initial excitement of planting seeds or seedlings to the joy of harvesting and using fresh herbs in the kitchen, every step offers valuable learning opportunities and moments of bonding.

Recap of Key Points

  • Educational Benefits: Herb gardening teaches children about plant biology, life cycles, and the importance of responsibility and patience.
  • Nutritional Awareness: Growing and using herbs encourages healthy eating habits and demonstrates how fresh ingredients can enhance meals.
  • Environmental Connection: Children develop a deeper appreciation for nature and learn about sustainable practices.
  • Getting Started: Choosing the right herbs, gathering materials, and ensuring a safe gardening environment are essential for a successful start.
  • Planting and Caring: Whether starting from seeds or seedlings, children learn daily care routines and enjoy fun activities that make gardening engaging.
  • Harvesting and Using Herbs: Kids experience the rewards of their efforts through harvesting and incorporating herbs into simple recipes and craft projects.
  • Learning and Exploration: Interactive games, science experiments, and cultural exploration activities broaden their understanding and appreciation of herbs.

Herb gardening is a fantastic way to spend quality time with children while teaching them important life skills and fostering a connection to the environment. The joy and sense of accomplishment that come from growing and using their own herbs will stay with them for years to come.

Let's Do This!

We encourage you to start your own herb gardening adventure with the children in your life. Share your experiences, photos, and stories to inspire others. Join local gardening communities or school programs to connect with like-minded individuals and continue learning and growing together.

By exploring the world of herbs, you're not only creating a beautiful and productive garden but also planting seeds of curiosity, knowledge, and respect for nature in the hearts of young gardeners. Let's dig in and watch these seeds grow into a lifelong passion for gardening and healthy living.