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What Strengths Can Dandelions Teach Your Toddler or Preschooler?

Updated: Apr 18

Children learning from dandelions

Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.

~ A. A. Milne

Dandelions are weeds, but they look like sunny yellow flowers. When you or your toddler or preschooler sees dandelions spattered across a lawn or a single golden-hued dandelion flower poking up through a pavement crack, stop and seize the moment. What can be learned?

Ways in Which Learning Can Take Root

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dandelions teach children about GROWTH

What do dandelions—or flowers—need to thrive? Water, warmth, a safe environment (consisting of protective earth and fresh air), and respect (not to be picked or trampled). How does a person’s optimal growth compare with that of a flower? What do people require to flourish? Spring—or, for that matter, each new day—invites new beginnings—and opportunities to have meaningful conversations with children about them. What does your child need to help them grow in their best ways?

Dandelions teach children about DETERMINATION and RESILIENCE

Dandelions can teach us a lot about resolve. They’re extremely resilient, and although they can wildly disrupt the “manicured look” of a lawn, they actually fertilize the grass. The deep roots loosen and aerate the soil. Moreover, dandelions provide excellent examples of determination and staying power—powerful attributes that, by the way, also facilitate children’s learning and make them stronger and wiser.

Dandelions teach children about PURPOSE

Plants, weeds, and flowers are helpers! For example, dandelion roots have nutrients and medicinal benefits and can be brewed into soothing teas. The leaves are full of vitamins and can be added to salads. Dandelions can also be used to make jam, soap, and syrup. The decorative flowers are an early source of pollen for bees and other insects that keep gardens growing throughout the summer. Different plants (including fruits and vegetables) and weeds (whether pretty or prickly) serve various purposes within the environment and in the cycle of nature. Gardening books and resources provide information about this, so encourage children to find out more. People have purpose, too. Chat with your child about what gives them a sense of purpose and how they can help others in their own way.

Dandelions teach children about THE PASSAGE OF TIME

Bright yellow dandelions ultimately turn into grey, seedy fluff whisked by the wind. Why? What happens to tulips and daffodils, and why do they sprout again immediately after winter? A magnolia tree’s magnificent rosy flowers fall after a few days, as do the buttery-colored petals on a hyacinth bush. Cherry blossom trees in full bloom soon turn from pink-hued wonders to lovely green-leaved shade trees. Maple trees have barren branches dripping with sap, then in autumn, boast glorious golden foliage. It’s all about the passage of time. This, too, is an important conversation to have with children.

Dandelions teach children about WATCHFULNESS

Outdoor explorations and family nature walks can be fun, surprising, informative, and multisensory experiences. Be careful, but check out roadsides, forested areas, rocky terrain, and other places for wildflowers and growth. Be curious. Be observant. Author Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see.” Consider colors, surroundings, and the manner in which things grow—tall, short, skinny, or plump; cohesively or fiercely independent; basking in the sunshine or tucked into a shady spot. Explore the countryside, neighboring gardens, and your own backyard. Blow on a dandelion puffball, make a wish, and watch it soar. Enjoy gardening activities together. And seize opportunities to discuss the many ways in which children’s development compares to the wonder and evolution of flowers, trees, vines, plants, and weeds—and how to nurture growth during the spring and all year long!

Author’s Note: This is an updated version of an article entitled Springtime! Learning Takes Root, written by me, published in the May 2022 issues of Best Version Media’s Neighbours Magazines, and were distributed across Ontario, Canada.

Author’s Recollection: When I was very young, I’d pick the plumpest dandelions to give to my mother. She’d place the “bouquet” in a glass of water on the kitchen counter, and we were both happy!


Joanne Foster, Ed.D. is a multiple award-winning author of several books. Her most recent is Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids. To find out about her publications, presentations, and newsletter, and for resources on supporting children’s learning and well-being, go to:

Cover Photo by Nathaniel Kelsey

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