Audrey has recently begun to play board games. We only have a few: checkers, chess, a pack of cards, and…Wildcraft. But I foresee a growing collection in our future. For a girl who loves prediction, rules, and anything involving social interactions, board games are just about perfect.
The one she and I play the most is Wildcraft. For those of you not familiar, it’s a board game produced by Learning Herbs, a great online herbal resource. It’s a cooperation-based game, the goal of which is to collect huckleberries for Grandma before nightfall. Along your route you collect herbs which can be used to treat any ‘injuries’ you may get while traveling up the mountain path.
This is Audrey’s favorite part. She’s not nearly as concerned with collecting all the huckleberries as she is in making sure everyone’s ’owies’ are properly treated with the right herbs. Although she can’t read, she already recognizes (much to this herbal mama’s delight) about 70% of the herbs on the cards from our family’s gardening and wildcrafting activities. These plants, of course, are her favorites.
I’ve been taking my kids around the woods and parks as I harvest plants ever since they were newborns. Watching them, I’ve become convinced that kids are natural born botanists. They love plants. And it’s totally normal to them that some plants are good for food, others can help us feel better, and some shouldn’t be eaten. Their memories, even as tiny babies astound me.
One of Audrey’s first words was ‘waw-wow’ (Yarrow). She would clutch a yarrow leaf in her hand on our hikes and point out the other Yarrow plants around us. She could barely toddle and she was picking Oregon Grape berries and staining her mouth purple with their juice. She quickly learned to avoid poison oak after I told her it could hurt. Gray learned rose hips right after he started eating solids. He yells with excitement every time he spots one. I carefully peel the outsides of them (the hairs inside can be irritating) and he eats them faster than I can pop them into his mouth.
I certainly don’t think my children are unique in this. Humans would never have survived if we weren’t adept at identifying and memorizing plants even as infants. Wildcraft is a beautiful adjunct to teaching these skills to children. It’s certainly no substitute for in-the-field experience (and the authors clearly point this out) but it is a wonderful way to expand upon these activities. We love it.
Note: I’ve been informed by Audrey that it is called The Herb Game not Wildcraft. Well, that’s what we call it;)