Teaching Kids: Dangerous Plants in the Backyard

Our Backyard
Last year we moved to a much more wooded area than our previous home.  We used to live in a new development where trees where few and far between.   Now we are enjoying the beauty of so much foliage around us, however, there are also some poisonous plants in our backyard.  As a mother of a five-year-old who loves to play in the backyard this has been a serious concern.  Most recently my husband developed a bad rash and we believe it was from touching some of the poison oak and/or poison ivy while doing some yard work.  So what is a mother to do?

We do plan to find ways of organically getting rid of these plants.  However, we doubt we will be able to get rid of it all because this is such a wooded area and I will not spray chemicals in my yard.  I could not let my daughter go outside and play or I can follow her every move to make sure she does not touch anything.  Neither of those options sound realistic.   I could also just teach her to recognize harmful plants.  I chose the last option.

Since I am doing supplementary home schooling in addition to her half day kindergarten class, I made this a teachable moment during our science class.  We had so much fun doing it and I know that my daughter is now better prepared and a little bit wiser on how and where she chooses to play.  It is also a little bit of knowledge she can take with her wherever she goes.

Our Homemade Manual
Here is what I did.  I put together a list of the most common poisonous plants in our area.  Once I printed out their pictures, I laminated the cards.  For class, we talked about each plant and why they are harmful and then we took a little field trip to our yard.  My eldest walked around with the cards in her hands looking at all the plants and identifying them in our "manual."  By the end of this exercise, she was very well informed on which areas of the backyard she should avoid.  Not only did she become a little wiser, but so did I!  I found out exactly how much poison ivy we had in the border areas of our yard and we also found some poison oak!!





Our Poisonous Plant Manual Next to the Door
We also found out that our peonies and rhododendron are poisonous to ingest.  I don't think my oldest daughter will be eating plants, but I know it is something I will have to watch out for with my now 6-month-old.  We now keep our manual next to the door so that my oldest has an easy reference if she needs it. 

Here are some great resources to find out about poisonous plants but it is best to concentrate on the ones more common in your area.  There are also many common household plants that are poisonous to ingest which is also good to know, especially if you have little ones that are still putting things in their mouths.

Six Common Backyard Plants That Could Kill You
Dangerous Plants in Your Backyard
Pictures of Poisonous Plants

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