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A Berry Good Summer

July 12, 2016
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child Series , OVParent

Whether you pick them yourselves or purchase a farmer's stand, sun ripened blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are midsummer's tasty jewels. Beware! Eating these delicious delights may open the gate to a sometimes elusive visitor, imagination.

Just like loving juicy berries, delighting in rhyming words, real and imaginary, seems to be in every child's DNA. Bruce Degan surely knew this, for his book "Jamberry" (Harperfestival, 1995)) is filled with rhymes that are as fun to read as they are to hear. This delightfully illustrated book is fun for toddlers to beginning readers.

A bear and a boy take a rhyming excursion through berryland: "Under the bridge, and over the dam. Looking for berries. Berries for jam."

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Once you read "One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry," not only will you will have the unforgettable cadence swirling in your imagination for a long time, you will also have a craving for the summer jewels.

You could make your own jamberry jam. A sticky, daunting task? Kids slip into their electronic worlds as you sterilize jars, prep fruit and do all that goes with jam making. However, a mini batch of kid-friendly jamberry is quick and simple. The kids smash one quart of any berries, 1/4 cup water, and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. You take over stirring and simmering berries until thick. Pour in a clean glass jar and refrigerate.

Another way to exit from electronics and jump knee deep in berries is to make up berry rhymes. Older kids may enjoy creating berry songs. This kind of fun evolves when everyone is hanging around with "nothing to do." Pick a song, any familiar childhood song, and reword it. The melody to "Oh My Darling Clementine" lends itself to parody. It also has a great hiking, walking or swinging-on-a-swing cadence.

Here's one version for a berry good song. "Picked a blackberry, picked a blackberry, that was growing in the sun. Then I washed it, and I ate it. Then I picked another one." There are as many potential stanzas as there are varieties of berries.

Sometimes a berry good game may be in order. You've seen the way your berry eaters can gobble the tasty treats. In a twinkling the berries you hoped would last at least a few hours have vanished. How to slow them down and make those jewels last? Whether it is in school or at parties, every child has played "Pop Goes the Weasel." So when everyone is eating berries in record time, turn it into a game that could go something like this: "All around the blackberry patch, we picked some juicy berries. We carried them home and washed them up and POP goes the berry." The word pop signals it is time to pop a berry into a waiting mouth. Kids and parents have been known to go a little wacky and toss berries into each others' mouths. Everyone has a berry good time.

Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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