lots of learning can happen with just an herb
If you give a kid a cardamom pod, she’ll want to know what’s inside. When you tell her there are seeds inside, she’ll want to see them. When you say the pod needs crushed, she’ll want to know how to crush it. When you suggest that she could use her Green Toys hammer, she’ll double check and ask for sure if she can really hit the pod with her hammer. When the seeds come out of the shell, she’ll ask if she can eat them. When she eats the seeds, she won’t like them at all. Then she’ll ask for a cup of filtered water to rinse out her mouth.
Okay, I’ll stop, but are you following the theme? Name that book!
If you said If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you win! Although you could have also said If You Give A Pig A Pancake or If You Give A Moose A Muffin. Let’s derail for a moment and talk about that mouse so that I can get something off my chest. I loved that book as a kid, but I also had no clue about codependency. It wasn’t until I read it to Selah, that I realized how needy that little mouse is and how the boy just does everything the mouse wants. Why can’t the boy ever say no to the mouse? This would teach kids about having healthy boundaries with a needy friend. And on another rabbit trail, why are so many children’s books about junk food? Why can’t the mouse want some collard greens?
When Selah saw some cardamom pods floating in my Tazo chai, she wanted to know what they were. Her inquisition turned into an entire day of learning that looked like another sequel to If You Give A Mouse a Cookie, but with genuine curiosity in place of demanding neediness. One learning tidbit led to another, and it just kept going!
Our cardamom learning exploration started with me giving up a few of my treasured green cardamom pods to the girls. I say treasured because I love my green cardamom to pieces and it’s one of the most expensive spices in the world. This is when Selah practiced her counting. Then, she had the glorious honor of cracking the pods with her Green Toys hammer. Getting to use her hammer like this drew her into a deeper level of learning. She was totally hooked, and even brought out her pliers!
Extracting the seeds enabled the girls to experience the cardamom with all five of their senses. Re’uth especially enjoyed smelling them hound dog style, but tasting them was a different story. I bet she disliked the seeds’ mint-like numbing effect on the palate (but that’s the same reason cardamom seeds, when chewed, can be used as breath mints).
After experiencing the cardamom seeds, Selah wanted to know how the cardamom pods got to our house. This led a to a discussion about cardamom plants that grow in India. At the time, I didn’t realize Guatemala was such a large producer of this amazing spice, so we only talked about India. Map time! We didn’t have a world map in the house, but I remembered seeing one on the side of a Whole Foods brown paper bag. I rustled through our paper bag stash and found the free map! I was having too much fun with this.
“That’s far away,” she said. Next we were talking about boats and planes. Selah was completely fascinated.
Then we had a cardamom chai party with an herbal mixture I bought in bulk at a local grocery store. It still had hunks of chunky spices in it, including whole cardamom pods, so Selah got to grind it up in my blue Le Creuset mortle and pestle. She enjoyed this part just as much as hammering the pod. A little note to you that the cardamom flavor will go miles in your hot tea if you freshly grind the pods. I asked Selah if she wanted to wear a princess dress while she drank her tea, but she declined. She wanted to wear her pink Minnie Mouse shirt instead.
While we were waiting for the tea to brew, I spelled out the word c-a-r-d-a-m-o-m so that we wouldn’t miss an opportunity to practice our letters. Before Selah took a turn to write the letters herself, she wanted to trace a pod and color it blue. She happily copied my letters while she sipped the freshly brewed cardamom chai. My little “a” must have looked like a capital Q to her (she’s still learning to differentiate human handwriting from typed letters).
All in all, it was a super fulfilling day, not just for her, but for me. I was surprised at how interested Selah was in learning about an herb, being that she’s only 4 years old. I sometimes struggle with creatively engaging my kids, but it looks like all I need to do is let her experience an herb. I’m looking forward to doing more herbal activities with my kids once my licensing exams are completed in early August. Next up, marshmallow root balls.
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