Last summer I went berry picking with Eva for the first time in the forest. We picked wild raspberries, blueberries and the occasional strawberry and she absolutely loved it. I recommend preparing and taken some general precautions when picking wild berries with a toddler or young child, but if you do that, berry picking can be such a fun activity. This summer we’ve already picked a huge bucket of wild blue berries and eaten at least the same amount while picking them and Eva has loved every moment of it.
This year we have extended our repetoire of things we pick in the forest. When out for a walk in Sweden Ben, Eva and I came across some mushrooms by coincidence. At first we didn’t pick them as I’m not expert in mushrooms despite having gone mushrooming with my parents every year since I was a toddler. I was 99 % certain which they were and that they in fact were edible, but left them and went to get my parents – the experts – and sure enough, they were exactly the mushrooms I thought they were: chantarelles and boletus mushrooms! Two very tasty mushrooms that grow in the forest in Sweden.
The five of us ended up finding and picking a big tray of mushrooms on our little walk and Eva had fun helping. Though she was often distracted by the many tasty blueberries which she much prefered to pick and eat, she still found a great joy in helping us pick the two different kinds of mushrooms and helping us put them in the tray.
9 safety tips for going mushroom picking with a toddler
If you want to go mushroom hunting with your toddler or child, I’ve gathered 8 tips and tricks for foraging berries with a toddler, which also applies to foraging mushrooms. However picking mushrooms in the wild needs a bit more precaution than picking the most common berries, which is why I’ve gathered 6 safety tips and tricks for picking mushrooms below:
- Teach your toddler to never go mushrooming on their own and to only pick mushrooms when with a trusted adult (or an expert). I told Eva to only pick mushrooms when she’s with either me, Ben or her grand parents. If she is with some one else she can point and talk, but not pick them. She might not be old enough to completely understand it yet, but I still tell.
- If even the sligthest amount of doubt, don’t pick it. I’ve learned to identity two different kinds of mushrooms. That’s it. And that’s the two kinds I pick. I have never mistaken them for something posineus, but have left many behind because I have been in doubt and that’s the safest thing to do. Some deadly poisonous mushrooms closely resemble edible ones, so unless you’e absolutely certain what the mushroom is, don’t pick it and don’t eat it.
- Don’t let your toddler pick mushrooms without asking you first. We had Eva help us locate the mushrooms and then we would tell her whether or not she was allowed to pick them for us. This made it a fun activity for her and made us feel safe. We of course never let her out of our eyesight, but I could imagine that being a bit more difficult with more children around. Therefore this rule.
- Don’t let your toddler taste the mushrooms before you’ve cooked them. The dirt needs to be cleaned of and wihle doing that you get an extra chance to examine the mushroom and identity them. Always cook the mushrooms unless you’re 100 % sure they can be eaten raw.
- Tell them which mushrooms are safe and which are not and why – even if you don’t think they’ll understand. Since Eva had only just turned two years old we wen’t with the very mature “the red ones with dots are yucky” and made a yucky face. It worked better than expected.
- Don’t trust the internet for identifying mushrooms. Find a real book or an expert. I know some might disagree, but I would not take a chance by simply googling mushrooms. It’s so easy to accidently write the wrong name of a mushroom under a photo. You can of course use the internt to look up mushrooms, but make sure you trust your sources.
- Only gather mushrooms that are easy to identity. As mentioned I know two kinds of mushrooms and both are very easy to identify. Especially the vibrant orangy chantarelles though they do have a look-a-like known as the false chantarelle which leads me to the next tip.
- Take your time to get familar with mushrooms that have look-a-likes before going mushrooming. This especially applies if the look-a-likes are poisonous.
- If you don’t feel comfortable picking mushrooms with your kids, make it a game to locate as many mushrooms as you can instead. No need to feel discouraged if you don’t feel safe picking mushrooms with your kids. Instead make a fun game out of locating and maybe even identifying the different kinds of mushrooms with a mushroom guide book. Your kids will still have a blast and learn a thing or two about nature.
Our haul of the day. One or two of the boletus were discarded as we weren’t completely certain whether or not they had gone bad – and better safe than sorry!
Oh, and one last thing. Before picking mushrooms (or berries for that matter) make sure you are allowed to pick them. Different regions have different rules, so look it up or ask the locals.