Are All Herbs Safe for Children?
We are planning on planting a herb garden at my son's school, so I need to find out if there are any herbs we should avoid. The children are all between 2 & 5 years. Any advice would be great.
First of all, congratulations on being directly involved in your son’s education! Kids reap so many rewards when parents take an active interest in their everyday activities. Herb gardens are wonderful choices for introducing young children to gardening, and while most well known herbs are perfectly safe, there are some herbs that need to be considered off limits.
When planting herb gardens with children, avoid aconite, apple balsam, apple bitter, baneberry, bloodroot, bryony (both black and white), calabar bean, calotropsis, cherry laurel, clematis, dropwort, foxglove, hellebore, hemlock, nightshade, paris, saffron, spurges, and thorn apple.
In general, most plants that are readily available at garden centres are likely to be safe choices. If in doubt, double check with the centre owner as they are likely to be quite knowledgeable about the products that they sell.
When choosing plants, you might want to consider the common uses of various herbs so that once the garden is flourishing, the children can utilise the mature herbs by using them in recipes or even craft projects. For example, choosing herbs that can be used to season pasta or pizza, such as parsley, oregano, fennel, and basil, and then hosting a special lunch using the herbs, is fun, educational, and delicious!
Kids may also enjoy planting a tea garden, choosing chamomile, lemon balm, spearmint, and peppermint or maybe an aromatic garden, grown for the purpose of making wonderfully scented sachets as gifts for the children’s mums. Plants can be harvested and then either spread on screens or bundled and hung to dry. Good choices for sachets include lilac, lemon balm, lavender, mint, rosemary, and thyme.
Having a theme for the garden may help to keep kids interested, especially if it is one that they can easily relate to. For instance, a 'Peter Rabbit Herb Garden' may include herbs mentioned in the book, such as chamomile, lavender, mint, sage, rosemary, tansy, and lemon balm. Extending the theme into reading time and even creative play can help kids to stay excited as they wait to see progress in their garden.
Good luck with the garden – I hope the children have a wonderful time!