Elderberry Day ~ Herbs For Kids ~

As a preschool teacher and a parent, I am always on the look out for ways to help kids learn about staying healthy during cold and flu season.  So every year, just like I do at home, I make elderberry syrup with the kids at preschool.

Tea Tasting

We start off with a tea tasting at snack time.  I make a simple elderberry tea for the kids to try and with out a hitch almost every child loves it every year.  This is a great way for the kids to have a chance to really get up close and personal with elderberry.  We look at the color and while they taste the yummy berry-ness of the tea, I tell them about the benefits of elder.

To make tea just pour a quart of boiling hot water over about a 1/4 cup of elderberries and let steep for at least 15 minutes.  Then strain.  Add a bit of honey or agave to taste if so desired.

Simmering Elderberry Syrup

Making Elderberry Syrup

We dump the elderberries in a big pot and then add cinnamon chips, cloves, orange peel and ginger.  As we do this, I show them each herb, letting them sniff  while we talk about each one.  Just touching briefly on what they are and why we are using them.  Next, is everyone's favorite part, stirring the herbs!  After each child has stirred the pot we add water and set it all on the stove to simmer.  Normally when I making syrup at home I let my kids smash the berries and herbs together with a potato smasher once they have softened in hot water.  The smashing is my children's favorite part of making syrup , but I don't do this at the preschool.  The thought of managing 15 preschoolers while the smash stuff up in hot syrup is terrifying!

Note:  I finished up the making the elderberry syrup during lunch and bottled it in little quart jars I brought in for each child.  Just enough for them to take home and share with their families.

For more information about making your own elderberry syrup click here.

For general information about elder click here.

The Germ Experiment

While the syrup cooked up we did another experiment.  The Germ Experiment.  I do this every year and it is always a big hit with the kids.  We start talking about germs.

What are they and where are they?  Here is what they had to say:

  • Green stuff
  • Things that get you sick
  • Germs are all over your boogers
  • Their little, teeny wheeny
  • In the sink

Next we played a game.  I pretended to sneeze in my hands and then pretended pick my nose and then I shook hands with the person next to me.  And they shook hands with the person next to them and so on.  Each time someone shook hands we stopped and talked about where the germs were now.  And I said they are on me, and you, and you, and you.  The kids thought this was great (lots of giggles) and really seemed to understand that dirty hands pass on germs.  So of course next we discussed hand washing and sneezing/coughing in our elbows.

During the next part of our game we had to be scientists and doctors.  When I asked them what scientists and doctors are they has this to say:

  • They study things
  • Help you feel better
  • A kind of grown-up that sneaks around
  • They do experiments and activities.

So we decided that we would run an experiment and observe what happens.  I sprayed each child's hands with a lavender spray (this was our gooey nose stuff) and then sprinkled their hands with glitter (this was our germs) and then told the kids to go and play for a few minutes.

They raced all over the school touching things and playing.  Then I called them back over and asked them to go around and find the "germs" in our school that came off their hands.  Of course they found glitter everywhere!  And they seemed to realize that if they don't wash their hands, they spread their germs.  At least I hope.  Yet, the next day I came to school, one of those sweet little boys had his finger in his nose, ah well..

Extra Info Just For Teachers

Here is a note I send home every year with the syrup.  Feel free to copy it if you want to try this at your school!

Dear Parents,

Here is a taster of elder berry syrup that we made today.  Please refrigerate what you don't use.  Consume within 3 months of today ________.  Below is some information on elder berry including a recipe for making your own syrup.  When you are done with your syrup please wash and dry your jar, then return to the school so we can fill it up again with something magical!

Elderberry for Winter Health

As we all know the coming Fall and Winter bring to us not only beautiful brilliantly colored crisp days and fun in the snow, but also seasonal illness such as colds and flues.  Young children, who are building their immune systems, often get hit extra hard during this time of year.  There are amazing plant allies who can help the whole family stay nourished and healthy during the months ahead.  One example is elder and its berries which have an extensive traditional use as a preventative for the flu and as a support during the flu.  In fact modern research has found elderberries to be active against the flu virus.  You can make a yummy syrup from elder berries to take on a regular basis during flu season or a ready made preparation of elder berry named Sambucol can be found at most natural food stores. If despite your best efforts, sickness should take hold, syrups can be used during a bout of the flu to hasten healing.

We make the following easy delicious recipe for syrup every year:

~ Elderberry Syrup ~

  • One cup of fresh or ½ cup of dried elderberries
  • 1 to 2 tsp of whole cloves (use less if you are using ground cloves)
  • 1 to 3 tsp of cinnamon chips (use less if you are using ground cinnamon)
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger root, chopped or 1 to 2 tsp of powdered ginger
  • the peel of one organic orange
  • 3/4 cup of raw unprocessed sugar or honey.  We used sugar today.
  • Honey and sugar act as preservatives.
  • 3 cups of water

Simmer the elderberries and spices in 3 cups of water.  Mash the berries with the water and spices and cook at a low boil for about a ½ hour or until the liquid reduces by one-half.  Strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer (make sure to get all the seeds out, which can be somewhat irritating to the digestive tract) and return the liquid to the pot and add the sugar or honey.  Heat until the sugar or honey just melts.  Then bottle, label and refrigerate your new syrup.  It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months.  Take two to three teaspoons for adults and 1 teaspoon for children (ages 2 and up) 3 to 5 times a week as a prophylactic during flu season.  If you do happen to get sick with a bout of the flu take the same dosage about four times per day.  Only the blue elder berries (Sambucus nigra) should be used as the red ones are toxic.  Elder berries are generally considered to be quite safe though they can be drying and irritating for folks suffering from migraines.  If you have a reaction, stop taking it immediately.  From Brigitte Mars's Elder

The spices included in this recipe not only make it taste delicious but also help to warm the body, decrease inflammation and support healthy digestion.  Other herbs can be added to this syrup to increase its protective properties.  Rose hips are soothing and will provide nourishing vitamin C and bioflavonoids.  Astragalus has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic to the immune system particularly to prevent illness.  However, this herb should not be used during illness as it can drive infection deeper into the body.  So do not take astragalus during the flu or cold. Another great herb for children’s health is lemon balm.  This yummy plant is antibacterial and antiviral, while also calming the digestive and nervous systems.  Add any of these herbs by the handful to the pot with the elder berries; also add a little extra water during the simmering and a bit more honey or sugar at the end.  Enjoy!

You can find everything you need to make your own syrup at Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary and Supply at 1227 Spruce Street in downtown Boulder and at Vitamin Cottage as .well as online at mountainroseherbs.com.

Shared On: The Kid's Co-op