By Kristin Beardsley
Even as the weather gets cold, we can still enjoy plants with our little ones. In this YouTube video and article, discover how to help your young child be successful in caring for indoor plants independently. You will learn how to set up the materials needed and show your young child how to dust, prune, identify, and water indoor plants.
- Place to work, can be a child-sized table, coffee table, plant stand, or the floor.
- Child sized apron (optional)
- Mat/waterproof cloth to work on (optional)
- Tray to carry materials, materials should be arranged from left to right in order of use
- Atomizer or spray bottle
- Cloth to catch drips
- Small watering can
- Several indoor plants
- Small brush and dustpan for clean-up (optional)
- Invite child when they are well rested and feeling good.
- Show them where the materials are located and invite them to help carry the materials to where you will work. (If you are right-handed, sit to your child’s right, opposite for left-handed. This will allow the child to see what your hands are doing.)
- Name each material as you take it off the tray (this is a great embedded language/vocabulary opportunity)
- Choose a plant and bring it to the workspace. It’s nice to tell the child what the plant is called or look at the tag if the plant is labeled.
- “Let’s mist the leaves. First, I will mist, then you can.” Pick up the atomizer, rest the atomizer on your non-dominant hand as you slowly place your fingers to mist. Hold the handle with your thumb and middle finger, then place your pointer finger on the top. Your pointer finger will push down to mist, keep your hands in this position to show your child a way they can be successful. This grip will help your child to strengthen their hand for holding pencils for writing. I model this, but my daughter isn’t able to do it yet, so she puts the atomizer on the table and pushes down with her palm. A spray bottle is also an easier option for younger children.
- Discuss how much water the plant needs and decide if it needs to be watered by feeling for moisture in the soil with a finger.
- Go fill the watering can. Show the child how to carry the watering can with one hand on the handle and one holding the cloth on the spout to decrease spills. When you go to water the cloth can be lowered and then can come back up to catch drips.
- Look for any spills and dry with the cloth and invite the child to water.
- Invite the child to water as many plants as they like and show them how to put everything away when they are done. You might need a small brush and dustpan to pick up any spilled soil.
Extension for a Younger Child: Leaf Dusting
It might be nice to introduce leaf dusting first as an introduction to caring for indoor plants, and it is accessible for a younger child. It feels great to see a dusty leaf look clean and shiny again. Choose a special cloth to be the designated leaf duster or make a leaf duster out of wool with a little handle, and choose a dish for the duster to sit in. When you go to present leaf dusting to your child bring the duster and plant to a workspace. Place one hand under the leaf and show how to dust the leaf from base to tip with 2-3 strokes. Dust a few leaves and then invite the child to dust. Only plants with smooth leaves can be dusted.
Extension for an Older Child: Pruning
Older children can also prune dead leaves while caring for indoor plants. Keep a small child size pruner in a dish. Show how to safely open the pruner and explain how we never touch the blade; it is very sharp. Locate and prune dead leaves and place them in the dish. Safely close the pruner before setting it down. Discard the leaves in the dish.
Things to Consider when Presenting
- Young children are creatures of process not product. They benefit from simply doing the activity or even a part of the activity as opposed to the finished product. Plants may be overwatered and over pruned. Have a big towel ready for spills and only offer plants that you are okay getting a fun new look.
- Limit language and distractions during the presentation and while the child is working. If you want to point out something additional or add more language or sensorial opportunities, try these at a different time. Focusing on your hands will help the child to be successful.
- Avoid praising the child and instead use phrases that acknowledge what they have achieved, like “You watered the plant,” when appropriate.
Create a book for your child with all the plants in your home. Include the plants common name, scientific name, and how much water and light it needs. To assist a child who is not yet reading include a photo of each plant along with symbols to represent water and sun needs. Then place a sweet little tag with each plant including the name and symbols for how much water and sun it needs. This will allow your developing child to find a proper location for the plant to thrive and water it appropriately.