During these unstable times, our children need us more than ever for connection and security. For many of us, the pandemic has brought a drastic change to daily rhythms and family dynamics. Spending time together outside is an enlivening way to connect, to move our bodies, and to get some work done.
In the Garden
You don’t need to have a garden to grow food! All you need is a pot, soil, some seeds, and water and you are on your way to witnessing a bit of magic. I start trays of seedlings every Spring and each year, the joy of watching the seeds germinate and push their way up through the soil never fails to amaze and delight me. (and my kids!)
Kids love to get their hands dirty and to help with planting time. If you have never gardened before, start simple with a couple of plant varieties that excite you and your children. My family always loves picking out new kinds of flowers to grow! If you are a veteran gardener, try getting your kids more involved in your process this year. You may not be as productive, but you are offering a valuable teaching to your children by including them.
Empower your children to have something that is their own. Whether it be a pot or two, a row in the garden, a raised bed – Allow them to create something that is theirs to take care of. And depending on their age, you may have to help remind them to tend to their babies so that they will thrive!
Some suggestions for kid approved plants: Carrots, Sunflowers, Strawflowers, Sungold Tomatoes, Lemon Balm, Sugar Snap Peas.
In the Forest
Do yourself a favor and invest in a field guide. (These are great: Audubon Field Guides) What do you and your children want to learn more about? Whether it be flowers, trees, mushrooms, birds, or something else – choose a topic of interest and explore together! You can also take pictures and look them up on your phone or computer.
This past week, my daughters and I were delighted to find a bunch of morel mushrooms. Foraging for wild foods is something that I love to share with my kids – perhaps because it brings out the childlike wonder in me and allows me to connect with them in a deeper way.
When we allow ourselves the time to step away from our schedules and connect with nature, we are sending our children the message that this is important and the significance of that will remain with them as they grow up.
In the Kitchen
One of my recent kitchen projects with my kids was making a batch of kraut. I find it to be such a simple but gratifying project!
All you need is a few cabbages, some salt, and a jar or fermentation crock. We like our kraut to be finely chopped, so we enlist the help of our food processor to speed up the process. This was the perfect job for my 9 year old who processed all of the cabbages on her own. I like to set aside a couple of leaves for putting on top of the batch at the end.
After the cabbage is chopped to your liking, put it in a large bowl, sprinkle some salt on top, and start squeezing! (After your hands are washed, of course!) You can also do this directly in the jar or crock, but I find that a bigger bowl allows for more hands to help at one time. Your goal is to release enough juice from the cabbage to submerge your kraut in liquid.
Finally, place the prepared cabbage into a jar or crock, place the reserved leaves on top, and weight it down so that the liquid rises above the cabbage. Place a towel over the whole thing and set aside in a cool, dark place. I usually start taste testing after a week, but if it’s very warm outside you may want to start checking sooner!
If your kids are anything like mine, they have major blocks and aversions to certain foods. I find that when they are harvesting or playing a major part in the making of foods, they are much more open to trying new things!
Author: Emily Bell
Emily Bell is the Volunteer and Registration Coordinator for the Spring Conference. She resides on a growing mountain homestead north of Asheville with her husband, two daughters, and a handful of human and non-human land mates!
Emily wears many hats including that of gardener, herbalist, broom-maker, event organizer, fitness enthusiast, and homeschool mom.