Beijingmedicinal plant garden1China is a great place to learn about traditional or alternative medicines. If you just want to give the kids a beginning introduction, there are a couple medicinal plant gardens you can even bring the kids to in Beijing.

In the northwest, next to Baiwang Mountain, also worth a visit, is the public medicinal plant garden. Go in late spring after planting is done, and you might have to bring a Latin or Chinese dictionary to figure out which plant is which. I wasn’t that prepared when I took my 7-year-old twins, but took pictures of different plants to look up later at home. I also used the trip as an opportunity to talk about natural remedies and how some things we eat are good for you like medicine. They were excited to spot some herbal plants they’d seen us use for cooking at home.Beijingmedicinal plant garden2

There is no subway nearby so far. We took the bus to the Baiwang Family Garden (Jiayuan) stop and walked east to the medicinal plant garden. West will take you to the mountain. Admission is cheap–a few yuan, and even cheaper for kids. The grounds are not huge, but big enough to spend a bit of time walking around with young children. Unfortunately, an indoor greenhouse has been closed permanently according to staff, to be turned into some kind of science or experiment center.

On the other side of town, more northeast, is the Autumn Reine Learning Garden. It is also a medicinal plant garden, specifically for kids and was opened by a traditional medicine doctor in honor of his baby who died of SIDS. We haven’t made it to that one yet, but they offer some weekend activities during spring and summer and are open to visits any time.