The Mint Family

The new school year at preschool has found us busily learning about plants before they go to sleep for the winter.  We have paid special attention to plants in the mint family as there are some many of them that the children are familiar with and we use a lot of them during the school year.  We have explored what a plant is and what makes a plant green?  We have also asked what makes certain plants smell so nice?  And how can we tell a if a plant is in the mint family?  

Flowering Peppermint     

Flowering Peppermint  


~ Mint Family Characteristics ~

Plants are categorized into families based on a certain set of observable characteristics.  Plants in the mint or Lamiaceae family have square stems, opposite leaves, and are often fragrant, as well as having certain flower characteristics which the kids and I did not talk about.  

Our exploration of the mint family started with each kiddo smelling and playing with their own peppermint sprig.  I asked them roll the stem between their fingers so they could feel the square shape.  Demonstrating with my arms, I asked them if the leaves come out of the stem across from each other (like our arms do) or if they come out one higher and one lower?   The kids decided that the leaves come out of the stem like our arms come out of our body.  These are opposite leaves.  I was sure to tell them that fragrance, opposite leaves, and square stems tell us that this plant might be part of the mint family.  

Posted with permission from  Wildflowers and Weeds .  Please enjoy!     

Posted with permission from Wildflowers and Weeds.  Please enjoy!


What plants are in the mint family?  

Here are a few examples:

  • Lavender

  • Rosemary

  • Hyssop

  • Basil

  • Oregano

  • Thyme

  • Sage (Salvia spp. not to be confused with Artemisia spp.)

  • Lemon Balm

  • Catnip

  • Self-heal

  • Motherwort

  • Skullcap

  • Monarda

  • Horehound

  • and of course, Mints, of which there are so many varieties, my favorite is the fuzzy leaved Apple Mint!


Fresh Lemon Balm

Fresh Lemon Balm

 After playing with mint, we passed around fresh basil, lemon balm, anise hyssop and lavender to smell and enjoy.  We talked about the essential oils inside the plants that make them smell so wonderful.  Having already made spearmint playdough the week before, the new kids were already a bit familiar with essential oils.  And the children who came to school with me last year, knew quite a bit about essential oils as I use them often in our projects.  

Here is a bit of what the kids had to say about the plants as we played with the plants:

About lemon balm, “It tickles the inside of your nose!” and “It smells like bees”

One little boy said, “When I smell lavender, it helps me calm down” while rubbing his hands down his chest and looking at me very seriously.

More about lavender, “Now my finger smells like lavender!”

About peppermint, “Smells like chocolate cake!” 

About basil, "Hey, I have eaten this before!" 


Mixing Bath Salts

Mixing Bath Salts

We ended our day together with by making a quick and easy bath salt for the kids to take home.  I love to send something home with whenever I can them to remind them of what we have learned together!  

Here is our recipe:

Spearminty Bath Salts

  • 3 cups Epsom Salts
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 10 drops Spearmint Essential Oil (don’t use peppermint, it is strong and can burn)
  • 8 drops Lavender Essential Oil

Mix it all up in a bowl with the kids and place it in individual bags for the kids to take home!

How about you?  

Have you shared to joy of plants with kids?  

I would love to hear about it!


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