Microbes have been living on Earth for 3.7 billion years and perform such vital services that all other creatures on Earth would die without them. Microbes are in the air, the soil, the food, as well as in the human body, especially the skin and intestines. Half the cells in our body are microbial, many are helpful and only a few are destructive. Microbes break down organic substances and change their chemical makeup when foods are fermented, such as yogurt, bread, pickles, and soy sauce, making fermented foods gut healthy. Nutritionists encourage a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods to support a healthy microbial community in a healthy body. Processed food has chemical additives that have been shown to disturb microbes. Antibiotics kill susceptible bacteria but not resistant bacteria which multiply and become more common. Kids should take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by the doctor and avoid antibacterial soaps, lotions, and cleansers. Instead, kids can wash their hands with soap and water, which wash all kinds of bacteria down the drain, and wash often to avoid infection. The microbial cells and human cells work together to keep kids healthy. There are many kinds of microbes in the human body performing many tasks, like helping to digest our food, fighting harmful bacteria in the gut, and developing our immune system. Studies have shown that kids in big families or that go to day care are less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies. Kids that live on farms and interact with farm animals have the lowest rates of allergy and asthma. Kids that grow up with dogs, cats, and horses are also less affected. Antidepressant microbes in soil bacteria produce serotonin bringing happiness and healing to kids and gardeners rooting about in the soil. Kids that spend time outdoors, playing in nature, and growing an organic veggie garden are healthier and happier.
Kids can grow rosemary in a container and bring its lovely evergreen fragrance to the patio. Popular with pollinators, rosemary displays little blue flowers that keep bees happy in winter and is a good companion plant for veggies. Because it quickly grows large, kids can freely harvest sprigs for adding to recipes, making dried herb blends, and creating smudge sticks and sachets. Kids can add rosemary to many delicious recipes, such as Rosemary Pesto and Roasted Potatoes or use it as a skewer for grilling. Kids can cut fresh sprigs of rosemary with scissors for dinner and add it to beans, salad, pasta, or bread.
Kids can make Rosemary Smudge Sticks, dried herb bundles that are burnt as incense and release a pleasant, relaxing and peaceful aroma. Scientific evidence shows that smelling rosemary stimulates brain chemistry and helps depression. Kids can make three smudge sticks by cutting 12 rosemary branches, 6 – 8 inches long, and dividing them into three groups for bundling. Cut three cotton threads 6 feet long, double in half, and start wrapping the rosemary bundle about an inch above the bottom of the stems, 10 times in one place and make a knot. Wrap the bundle tightly, spiraling the cotton thread up the stems, and continue wrapping, crisscrossing the cotton thread back down the stems. Tie the loose end to the knot at the base of the bundle. Kids can dry the smudge sticks on a flat surface for 2 weeks. Parents can light the top end of the stick, blow out the flame, while kids hold the base to release the smoky scent and carry it throughout the house and garden. Traditionally, rosemary smudging is used to release negative energy and bring about mental clarity and calmness.
Kids can use consumer power to create a sustainable planet. Many products are designed to be thrown away, especially paper and plastic products. However, plastic lasts and lasts. Most plastic is made from unsustainable fossil fuels (oil will run out some day) and its production process pollutes the environment. Workers who make plastic products handle many chemicals and need to wear protective clothing and oxygen masks. Kids can use tempered glass for food storage as the toxic chemicals used to make plastic products can leak into food stored in them. Also kids should not reheat food in plastic containers as the problem is worse in heated plastic. There are currently five large whirlpools of plastic in the oceans, harming the fish and birds that eat them and passing the toxins to the people who eat the fish.
Kids can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle! Kids can cut back on litter in the land fills and ocean by using their consumer power and get sustainable school supplies. Kids can use recycled paper that doesn’t use any new trees. Kids can pack their lunch box with reusable containers and stainless steel water bottles. Kids can use organic cotton back packs and play with wooden toys. Kids can recover used plastics from their homes, oceans, and landfills and recycle it into a new product which emits less greenhouse gas than creating new plastic, but recycling is not the final answer. Kids can be the scientists that are working to develop bio-plastics made from plants that won’t harm the food supply, the workers, or the planet.
School gardens give kids not only food, but exercise, science projects, and the connection to what is alive on the planet around us. Kids can start an organic school garden with a few herbs in pots by the classroom door. With teacher and parent support, kids can expand their garden by growing veggies and fruit trees in the unused places across the school campus. Edible gardens can bring people together planning and planting the garden, growing and harvesting their produce, and sharing organic produce within the community. Growing food in urban places, on patios, roofs, and fences is happening across the country as our population surges past 7 billion. More families want to know what’s in their food and are asking for organic whole fruits and veggies.
School gardens offer outdoor education. Kids can learn math and science lessons while building and decorating raised bed garden boxes. Raised Bed Gardens are abundantly productive, cost effective, accessible to all ages, and can create beautiful berry patches or butterfly gardens along the campus pathways. Kids can learn about the microbial life in the rich organic vegetable potting soil as they fill their raised bed boxes. Kids can study the seasons, the interaction of beneficial insects, and the synergy of life in the garden, while attaching nets, covers, and trellises to their boxes. Kids’ brains are charged in the garden with exercise, fresh air, smelling the herbs, communing with the microbes in the soil, and listening to the birds and bees. Kids can install a drip watering system with a battery run timer which delivers water right to the plant’s root. Vertical crops, like pole beans, can be planted in containers and bring a living tapestry to a grey concrete wall. Kids love growing in pizza slice-shaped garden boxes, planting toppings like basil, oregano, tomato, eggplant, and peppers with mulched paths delineating the pizza slices and making it easy to access the beds. Installing a pizza oven can be an inspiration to bring the community together over pizzas topped with school grown organic ingredients. Kids can start an organic container garden at their school and illustrate the abundance of organic produce that can be grown in urban places.
Today, kids are technologically addicted and nature deprived. Kids can plant a healthy life by growing an organic raised bed garden in a patio, school, or community garden. The girl in the picture loves her school garden and is off to water her adopted peach tree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization health statistics show that we are killing ourselves with processed, fake, refined pseudo foods, filled with chemicals and hormones. Unfortunately, healthcare education, nutrition conferences, and continuing education courses for physicians are sponsored by big food companies, fast food chains, and big pharmaceutical companies. Instead of recommending an organic whole food diet, patients are given more prescriptions. Kids can be gardeners in their life by weeding out unhealthy fake foods and filling their plates with organic food from the garden.
Kids find peace and happiness growing their organic veggies. Kids can weed out thoughts about the frustrations in their life and plant the joy they find in their garden, grateful for the beauty and abundance they are creating. Gardening is a stress reducer as flowers waft the air with aromatherapy and microbes in the soil release endorphins. In the garden, kids develop a stronger immune system, exercise all major muscle groups, soak up Sunshine Vitamin D, and breathe fresh air. Learning to care for nature, kids are more likely to care for others and the environment in which they live. Learning to cook what they grow and enjoy eating organic fruit, veggies, and whole grains creates healthy happy kids.
The Kids Adventure Garden at Conejo Valley Botanical Gardens, open Sundays 11am – 3 pm, is a charming place for kids to learn about nature and gardening. The Gardens offer the community the opportunity to study and enjoy collections of native plants, fruit and oak trees, drought resistant plants, and a population of wildlife on 33 acres in Thousand Oaks with lovely views of the Conejo Valley. The Kids Adventure Garden has a tree house, fun dinosaur topiaries, and a bee hut to explore. As in the above picture, many kids have been delighted by having secret tea parties in the topiary coves. The Garden Center there provides office space, welcomes Garden Club meetings, and is a hub of botanic and horticultural research. Most of all, the Garden is a refuge among Nature for contemplation, tranquility, and beauty where one can recharge and return to the world inspired. Botanic Gardens around the world are established as educational resources for kids and adults to learn more about the world of nature. During the holidays, kids can discover a local botanic garden to explore and enjoy.
A fun holiday project for kids is making a holiday wreath that can decorate the door or be given as a gift. For thousands of years, around the world, circles of flowers and greenery have been adornments at festivals honoring the interconnection of seasons and events with the cycles of life and nature, where the choice of materials for the wreath is often steeped in symbolism. To create a wreath, kids can choose a base material, such as vine, straw, wire, or form. Garden centers offer wreaths of pine like the one pictured that kids can decorate. Kids can find large variety of premade bases at a craft store. It is also quite easy to create a vine base made of grape, honeysuckle, or wisteria. Kids can form a hoop with several lengths of vine the size of the wreath and wrap other vine ends around them to get the proper thickness. A swirling grapevine base is beautiful even left exposed with simple embellishments or paint added. Kids can pick flowers, tie them in a bunch, and hang them upside down to dry in a closet for a week for long lasting beauty on their wreath. Evergreens, like pine, holy, cedar, and ivy, bring wonderful forest fragrances and have been a staple component of holiday wreaths since Roman days. Kids can gather cones, nuts, berries, seeds, and pods to add texture, color, and diversity to their wreath. Ribbons can be used to wrap the wreath base or made into a bow for a dash of color. To assemble the wreath, kids can use floral picks, wire, and, with parent supervision, a hot glue gun. The hot glue dries quickly, holds well, and can be peeled off mistakes. Place the largest objects on the wreath first and put the most fragile items on last. Kids can make holiday wreaths to celebrate life with nature’s bounty of fresh cut, dried, and preserved plants.