Summer is always such a busy time around here. Between foraging for wild berries and greens, permaculture gardening, and homesteading and homeschooling on a summer schedule, our days are full. The children work right alongside me, and while they don’t always love every summer chore they get, one activity they do love is canning and preserving.
Turning foraged berries or homegrown cucumbers into jam or pickles teaches the children a new life skill, and lets them enjoy the fruit of their labor. Plus with a little planning, it’s fun to involve the whole family.
Use these five tips to try canning at home with your kids – and don’t forget to grab your free canning labels. You’ll find a link at the bottom of this post.
#1. Let Your Children Choose What to Can
Get your kids interested in canning by letting them choose what to can or preserve. Maybe your son really enjoyed planting tomatoes and tracks the growth faithfully in his garden journal. Or maybe your daughter loves strawberry jam. Letting them choose what to make gets them invested, involved, and excited before canning begins.
#2. Make Freezer Jam First – It’s Easy
If you’re new to canning and preserving, don’t worry about pressure canning and water bathing and sealing can lids. Start with making freezer jam.
It’s simpler, and when you have many little hands helping it’s less stressful. All you’ll need is the following:
- fruit – try for the equivalent of about five cups
- large pot
- Mason jars (try the 4-ounce size as they’re perfect for gift-giving)
- measuring cup and spoons
- large mixing bowl
- potato masher
- recipe (from a favorite cookbook or the inside of the pectin box)
And don’t worry about freezer jam spoiling in the pantry. Once everything has been cooled and poured into jars, you can store your jam for a year or longer in the freezer.
#3. Assign Each Family Member a Canning Chore BEFORE You Start
We make jam every summer. Although I take care of heating the fruit mixture on the stovetop there are many other things for kids to do.
Your preschoolers can wash the fruit or vegetables and remove leaves and stems.
Kindergarteners and up can use a potato masher to mash up the berries.
Older children can measure ingredients, recipe the recipe and even oversee the cooking. Helpers of all ages can wash mason jars and lids in hot soapy water.
#4. Make it About More Than Canning
If you’re like, well, every homeschool mom I know, you’re always finding ways to turn everyday activities into fun learning experiences, right? Do the same when you’re canning and preserving.
For example, we routinely read “Blueberries for Sal”, an old family favorite picture book, before making jam.
You could introduce a unit study on the vegetable or fruit you’re planning to preserve. Or turn your canning activity into a science lesson by researching how cooking the ingredients at a high temperature helps preserve the ingredients.
#5. Share Your Bounty
Encourage your children to bless others with the jams, jellies, and preserves you make together. Show them how to label and fill each jar.
And don’t forget to grab your canning labels! The 1 3/4 inch labels fit the lids of 4-ounce jars. They’re the perfect size to give jam, jelly or preserve samples to your friends and family.
Sarita Harbour is a busy mom/step-mom, and grandmother blessed with seven kids ranging from age 32 down to seven. She lives off the grid with her family in a lakefront chalet in the beautiful wilderness of Canada’s far north. She spends her days teaching, writing, and learning the ropes of homesteading off the grid. Visit her site, Off Grid Life, for free printables and resources on homesteading, homeschooling, and self-reliance for the whole family.