Foraging on the Playground

Ferntop Nature Preschool in Fairview TN spends its days outside, no matter the weather. We have a clothing requirement that allows this to happen. Children wear certain types of waterproof pants and a specific type of boot that keeps feet warm and dry. This winter has been cold and WET! The children have not let it slow them down in play, which is a beautiful thing to witness.

At last…Spring is here, and with Spring comes a foray of weeds and wildflowers to explore and use. A foundation of our school is working WITH nature, not just IN nature. How does that happen? Foraging is a wonderful example of this philosophy in action. Foraging simply means searching for wild food. In England, they call edible plants and weeds, “free food”. We all love something for free, right?

To teach a child to forage is giving them a powerful tool. A child gets to know a plant in a special way that connects them to a place, a time, and builds knowledge and memory. The next time they visit, the connection is stronger, the memory added to and the land becomes full of possibility.

What seems like a nuisance and problem to some, are treasures to children. Think back to your childhood on how you interacted with plants, such as clover and dandelion. Or maybe you grew up being afraid of weeds, believing them to be dangerous. Fear blocks us from experiencing possibility. Let’s get informed! That way we can help the children around us connect to the land they that use daily, and make memories that will deepen as they revisit every season. We also will connect to the land and begin our journey of understanding.

These are some of the things we are foraging at Ferntop.


Wild Violets


Dead Nettle

All edible and full of possibility! Wild violets have been especially popular at Ferntop this year because of their deep purple color and heart-shaped leaves.

Here are some simple steps to begin foraging in your space:

1.) Get to know the edible plants. So many of our playground weeds are actually edible! If you have questions, look it up! The internet is full of great sites that help to identify edible plants. My personal favorite is

She has a wonderful Ebook titled Wildcrafting Weeds with some very common plants you will find on your playscape.

2.) Once you are confident with the edible weed, introduce it to the children. We use stories, songs, and even puppets to introduce special plants. We talk about how we can use the plant and why it is special.

3.) Get some baskets and go collect. Children are natural born collectors and they will greatly enjoy gathering masses of anything!

4.) Think about how you are going to use the edibles you’ve foraged. Children do enjoy eating as they collect, but most of the time we dry the plants for a week or so and make tea for the end of our day calm down.

4.) Get on Pinterest! Oh My… there are so many projects to do with edible plants, other than just eating them straight from the ground.

Lastly, be sure the area that you are collecting from is not sprayed with poison or pesticides. Not sure? Check with your director or groundskeeper.

Happy Foraging!

Clare Nugent

Ferntop Nature Preschool

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