Identifying wild mushrooms is a fun activity to do with kids!
Teaching children the important lesson of edible vs poisonous mushrooms is high priority to any caregiver who enjoys hiking and foraging. Always teach a child to look with their eyes and point with their fingers, but to never touch a mushroom without an adult‘s approval. By helping them understand the dangers that can occur by eating and even handling a poisonous mushroom, we can help prevent an unfortunate incident. It’s hard when children are curious, so make it a game of discovery. By having them run back to you when they find one or shout loudly and do a happy dance until an adult arrives.
Amanita Muscaria, also known as Fly Agaric, is on the top of the list as one to identify at an early age. It is often the first poisonous mushroom taught to children, mostly because of its easily recognizable traits. This classic bright red and white spotted toadstool is in fairytale books, literature, art and theatre. Although we think of it as being bright red, It can also have an orange colouring to it, like the image below.
If you want to teach your child about this mushroom but can’t find any in the forest, open a mushroom field guide book and use that as a starting point. You can also show them one off of your phone or computer.
After examining the key features of this mushroom, my daughter began to sculpt her interpretation onto a rock. I was impressed at how accurate she depicted it and I didn’t interfere. I could tell she had a great understanding of the characteristics. Some crafts need an adult‘s supervision or constant direction. However, for this craft all I had to do was give her the supplies and show her a reference.
If your child has never sculpted with clay before or copied a picture, look for shapes in an image and make those shapes. Start with the stem, and make a white rectangle cone-like shape onto your rock or background of choice. Next make a round red cap and either cut it in half to make a half circle shape, or create a half circle. Place that on the top of the stem. Next add smaller white dots onto the red clay. For the ring on the stem, roll out a thin snake shape and place that onto the stem near the top. Break down each shape and sculpt each one until it adds up to the whole of a mushroom.
Sometimes, I like to create art side by side with my child. She can see what I’m doing and can imitate me. Children often learn by example so helping to show them each step as you do it can make it easier. I created a smaller mushroom onto driftwood while my child was busy creating hers.
Have fun creating beautiful timeless mushroom sculptures with your child. The great thing about clay is that it can be reworked until you get it perfect, but don’t aim for perfection, all the imperfections are what make it unique.