I remember as a teacher my students used to bring me oodles of dandelions on the daily in the spring time. I would have cups of them lining our classroom window, unaware of their true potential beyond a pesky “weed” that children seemed to flock to in the masses. Looking back, I missed out on a variety of learning avenues we could have explored with this far from “pesky” flower.
Dandelions, believe it or not, are actually incredibly useful plants. They can be a source of a wide variety of nutrients, and they have a long history of use in a variety of herbal remedies. Not only that, but their bright yellow color can actually act as a great all natural dye as well.
My little guy has already started the dandelion foraging this spring, and this year, I am determined to make the most of it. The following are 9 ways you can make use of these wonderful weeds with your family this season.
*Please note that it is always wise when collecting and utilizing dandelions for any purpose that you ensure they come from an area that was not treated with pesticides, chemicals or has a high concentration of dog urine. Furthermore, I am not an herbalist nor doctor, so if you have any questions about trying one of the following suggestions with your child, please do your own research or run it by your practitioner first.
1.Make play dough. We love making our own play dough in our home and matching it to the season. Real foods, spices and essential oils are often our go to for both color and scent. I love using this natural recipe as our play dough base. To spice it up with some dandelion color and flair, simply boil the water first, take the tops off a good solid handful of the dandelions you’ve collected, blend the tops in your boiled water and use it as directed in the recipe. Set out a few extra dandelions, sticks, grass, etc. for your child to create their own play dough play yard.
2. Create a sensory bin. Sensory bins are often one of my go to’s because not only are they usually incredibly easy to toss together, but they provide little ones with endless entertainment. To create a dandelion sensory bin, simply gather a large amount from your yard and toss them in a container. Simple as that. Your child can engage with their senses by smelling and examining the dandelions. They can touch them and work to break them apart or tie them together. And yes, they can even nibble a little sample, if they so choose, as everything from the flower to the root is edible.
3. Make “soup”. Now there are two ways of going about this. The first is to bust out the water table or a bowl of water and let your child go to town. My child loves creating his own make believe meals, and I think dandelion soup may quickly become a new speciality of his. The other option is to get into your kitchen with your child and make the real deal. I am determined to try out this recipe from Life Infused this summer.
4. Paint. Really anything can be a paintbrush. We’ve used broccoli, carrots, daisies, fingers and more, so why not add dandelions to the list? Your child can dab it into their favorite paint, and go to town. Or encourage them to explore the dandelion’s natural color, by placing it on their page and using a rock or other tool to press down firmly to transfer it to their paper.
5. Identify plant parts. Even the youngest of learners can begin to identify and explore the parts of the plant. While they are busy collecting, use it as a teachable moment to point out the dandelion’s different parts and their purposes. You could even take a few apart and have your child sort the parts accordingly.
6. Make muffins. Set up a muffin tin, a mixing bowl full of dirt, utensils and a watering can in your yard and encourage your child to make some mud muffins. Once they have their base set, ask them to go hunt for dandelions to decorate them. Looking to bring your activity indoors? Whip up your favorite batch of muffins in the kitchen, and use the dandelions to decorate the real deal as well!
7. Bake cookies. Once you’ve mastered topping muffins with your dandelions, it’s time to mix them in to your dough! Feel free to toss them in to your favorite cookie recipe, or use this recipe from Daily Harvest Designs.
8. Make lemonade. Start by preparing your favorite lemonade mix. An easy DIY route, is simply starting with a quart or two of water and squeezing in lemon juice and honey to taste. Once prepared, toss in some pre-rinsed dandelions and let them hang out there for an hour or two. Serve chilled or however you prefer. It makes for a tasty and festive summer treat.
9. Eat a salad. I mentioned every part of the dandelion is edible, right? So do yourself and your family a favor and gather up your lunch. Use the greens for your base, add your favorite salad fixins’ and top it off with a few petals for good measure.
Morale of the story. Dandelions are far from being just “pesky weeds”. They are chalked full of possibilities, and can often easily be found right outside your front door. So what are you waiting for? Get to pickin’!
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