Can you believe that summer is all ready half over? Before it’s too late, get the kids outside and let them burn off as much energy as possible before returning to the ordered world of the classroom. Just be sure that you discuss with your children which plants are safe—and which ones are best left alone—before you let them loose into the wilderness of your backyard or local park.
A good rule of thumb (and fun rhyme) for recognizing which plants should be avoided is: “Leaves of three let it be.” This identification tool helps kids steer clear of the three most common poisonous plants: poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.
- Poison ivy is found throughout almost all of North America, making it one of the most commonly encountered poisonous plants. Clusters of three leaves are usually a dark, dull green but can also be purplish (and are in groups of three, remember!). Poison ivy is most commonly found as ground cover but can grow as tall as four feet.
- Poison oak has scallop-edged leaves and branches with fuzzy fruit. This plant grows mainly from Southern New Jersey to Florida, but is also found in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
- Poison sumac is the least common—but most toxic—of the three-leaved poisonous plants. It is usually found in wet soils like swamps and bogs. Look for bluish-green leaves with red tips and cream-colored berries.
So now that you know what to avoid, you can start planning which plants you want to seek out! PlantGuide.org is a great resource for identifying flowers, fruits and trees.
And to keep your kid’s interest in nature going long after summer has faded, try MindWare’s Professor Noggin’s Nature Card Games. These portable little games each come with 30 cards with trivia, true/false and multiple-choice questions to build confidence and memory retention.
Enjoy these last few weeks of summer safely, and spend as much time outdoors as you can!