I’ve always loved foraging. Flowers, mushrooms, fruits, berries, herbs. You name it. It’s a fun outdoor activity, that gets the whole family moving and teaches your kids, that food actually grows on plants and doesn’t magically appear in the supermarket. I especially think there’s something special about picking and collecting your own berries, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of picking different berries with my parents during the summer. Despite Eva still being quite young I therefore decided that this summer would be the first time of many summers where we would go foraging for berries together. Berries are full of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, and then they taste amazing. Both Eva and I can eat berries until we pop. Especially raspberries and blueberries and we are so fortunate to know some really great places to pick them close by my parents summer house.
Though Eva has been walking for two months and have become increasingly secure on her legs, she is still not the best age for going wild foraging on foot. Since she refused to stay on the tracks while I picked berries, I decided to pop her in the baby carrier (which I always have with me) on my back. And what a joy that was. She had a blast! She was able to pick her own berries, so I had to make sure 1) that she only picked and ate the safe berries, and 2) that she didn’t choke on any of the berries. The latter meant staying still when she ate and having everyone else keeping an eye out for her as well. Just like I would have done, if she had been on foot.
Eva picking berries from my back. Sometimes she squeezed the berries just a little too much and ended up with her hands covered in berry juice.
8 tips & tricks for berry picking and wild foraging with a toddler
This summer we’ve gone berry picking in the forest 3 times. Going with a toddler means taking a lot more precautions than you might otherwise do, lowering your expectations of the haul, and simpling following their pace. Below I’ve gathered some tips and tricks that I find can be quite helpful when foraging and picking berries with your toddler.
1. Let your toddler set the pace and remember to have fun with it and enjoy the experience. You won’t be able to pick as many berries as you would have been able to on your own, so don’t set your expectations too high. Just relax and take your time to observe your toddler. When I didn’t have Eva on my bag I really enjoyed seeing how concentrated she was when picking berries of the bush. We take so many things for granted, but for her it was quite a learning experience on how hard to squeeze the berries to get them of their stems.
2. Take measurements to be safe. In the area where we usually pick berries there are many ticks, and experience have taught me, that if you don’t take any precautions, you will most likely end up with at least one or two of them sticking their teeth into you before the day is over. Lyme disease is just one of many tick-born diseases, so I would recommend that you be careful. I always stuff my pants into my socks, wear long pants and a long sleeved shirts and then of course check my self afterwards. Same goes with Eva. Also don’t pick berries to close to fields or any area that uses pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer or near busy roads. Remember to wear sun-screen or cover yourself up if you’re out in the sun. and if going a place where there’s not many people around, bring a cellphone. Just to be on the safe side.
3. Make sure your toddler knows what is allowed to be eaten. And then keep an eye out for them anyway. This tip might fall in the same category as the one above, but deserves it’s own dot, as it’s so important. Toddlers are curious and easily forget instructions in the spur of the moment, so make absolutely sure the berries that both you and your toddler picks are safe for consumption. If in doubt, don’t pick them or let your toddler. You’ll rather be safe than sorry when it comes to picking wild berries. Same goes for mushrooms, herbs and pretty much anything you’ve picked with an intention to eat. Many edible plants have a poisonous look-alike and you should especially be careful with mushrooms!
4. Instruct your toddler on how to pick berries before you get there. And then show them when you arrive. That way you can make sure they don’t pick the entire plant and you can help them how to pick the berry without squishing it. I like to give the instruction both before we get there and after, so I’m sure we get everything covered. It might not have been the biggest problem this year, but I’m sure it will be next summer.
5. Bring a small container for each person collecting. We’ve always had small containers to pick in and then a one or two bigger ones for dumping our haul in. That way we didn’t risk loosing all of our berries if we accidentally dropped it or knocked it over. It’s also easier for a toddler to handle a small container, preferable one with a handle like a small basket. Don’t use plastic bags. It will not allow whatever you’ve picked to breath and will squish it. Preferably use baskets or other hard surface containers. A mesh bag is good for mushrooms.
6. Expect a mess. Have your toddler (and yourself) in clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting covered in berry juices, mud and bring wipes for our hands and faces. You will get dirty if you have fun in the nature and it’s so much more fun for everyone if you don’t constantly have to say: “don’t get juice on that”.
7. Pack snacks and water. Despite the fact that Eva eat a ton of berries while we’re picking them, she’ll still get hungry for some more filling foods when on the go. I like to make her a food pouch with red lentils for the times when we’ve been out and about, but with older children a sandwich, some crackers or similar might be more for their liking. I just prefer a food pouch as it’s easy and mess-free. Water is self-explanatory. Even if you don’t plan to be spending too much time foraging, it’s better to bring some water. Especially if the weather is hot. You’ll probably end up spending more time foraging that you expect if you have fun.
8. If the terrain allows it, bring a stroller or wagon. I brought Eva’s stroller and even though she never actually sat in it, we were still very happy we brought it, as we used it to store all the freshly picked berries, the few mushrooms we found and the flowers we picked as well as our lunch. A stroller also serves as a good place for your toddler to have a nap if needed, though a woven wrap, ring sling or baby carrier could be just as useful for this purpose.
That’s all the tips and tricks I can think of right now. I hope you find them useful and decide to take your toddler foraging and berry picking. It’s so worth seeing their happy and proud faces when they figure out how to pick a berry and get to taste it. When Eva is older I’ll also get her involved in preparing different things with the food we find, but for now, I think she is very much satisfied with just eating the berries we find.
Eva sneaking a taste of blueberries as I’m about to photograph our harvest of the day.