6 Tips for Safe Foraging with Kids
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
The idea of taking kids out foraging may scare some. You might ask, what if they eat something they shouldn't? That's why we need to educate them from an early age.
I have two little kids, and they always come out on walks with us. In fact, if they don't get outside for at least some of the day, they go stir crazy (and us adults with them!). When we are out, I'm always looking around for things to forage, and our eldest has started to notice too. This is brilliant as he's starting to understand where food comes from!
There can be a worry or, at least, some caution when introducing children to wild food. Of course we don't want them picking anything willy-nilly and jamming it in their mouth. But on the other hand, introducing them to wild food early in life and instructing them what not to do with it is just as important. Kids will put pretty much anything in their mouths, so by laying down some rules early on, we can try to prevent them necking a handful of nettles. This is what makes foraging with kids great fun.
Foraging is a great way to get children involved in nature and loving the outdoors. It gives them an early healthy respect for nature. Going on a walk can be boring, but by having them looking out for brambles or pine trees, things can get more interesting. Sometimes all we have to do to get Sam hyped up for a walk is tell him there will be raspberries to pick along the way.
Here are some tips for foraging with kids and keeping them safe.
1. Show interest in what they find
It may just be some grass, but everything is interesting at a young age. Talk to them about it. What colour? Is it long or short? Smooth or rough? Where did it come from? Is it squishy or hard? These sorts of questions gets them involved in their find in an exciting way.
2. Reiterate not to eat anything without your say-so
If they try to eat what they find, gently stop them, telling them it's not for eating. Inform them - and reiterate as much as you need - that they should only eat things once you (or another trustworthy grownup ) has told them it's okay. Let them know that they should never eat anything without asking you first.
3. Stay focussed!
Don't let your focus on getting that mushroom detract from your kid! Although you should always be spotting tasty wild treats, keep an eye on the kids, especially if they aren't used to being outdoors around berries and seeing you forage. If you see something you want to investigate, engage them with it and take them with you.
4. Don't pick things that you don't want them to pick
A forager will often come across poisonous plants, like a deathcap mushroom or more commonly, nightshade berries. Whilst very interesting and worth of a sketch, these are not things that children should see you pick. Remember, they copy your actions. So move on and come back later if you want to investigate further.
5. Use what you pick together
Foraging doesn't stop in the field! Take your findings home and use them together. From plums to wild mushroom risotto or even simply tucking into a victoria sponge made with delicious wild raspberry jam, make sure the kids understand why you were foraging - and how tasty a hobby it is!
6. Keep asking and keep discovering!
Talk about the outdoors and what they saw at the end of the day. Keep asking them about the foods they ate, and seeing if they would like to go to a forest to forage, or a beach or a field. Keep engaging and keep them excited!
Getting out and about
You can plan all you like, and read all the books, and buy all the tools but there's only one way to start foraging. Get out and enjoy the British country! Take the kids and get lost outside - your sure to have an amazing time together.