Teaching a child about plants can seem to be a daunting task at first, however, this is not the case. Children are naturally curious about the world that surrounds them. Do you remember how many questions you asked as a child? In fact, the best time to get someone interested in plants is when they are between the ages of six and fifteen. The best approach is to give the child a hands-on experience. The worst thing to do is to give a child a plant book with Latin plant names and lots of words that most children might not understand without proper knowledge about plants. One of the most important things to remember is to not give up. Children will make mistakes along the way, it is inevitable. As you teach your child about plants, the key word is patience. You do not want your child to associate plants and being yelled at. If you do give up somewhere along the way, the child will not become interested in plants by themselves. The next thing you should do is to avoid giving a child more chores by making them cut the lawn, water the plants, trim the hedges etc. You want your child to learn responsibility, but you also do not want to overwork them into thinking gardening is tiresome and boring.
You have to ask yourself: What do botanists, horticulturists, plant biologists, plant physiologists, plant pathologists and gardeners find so interesting about plants?
There are many rewards that plants have to offer. First, you get satisfaction knowing that you were able to create something (a plant) from something as small as a seed. Children will become fascinated with how large plants can grow. A great way to introduce your child to plants is to read him/her a short story such as “Jack and the Beanstalk”. This way they will be able to realize that from small things come great things. Helping your child grow a sunflower is a fantastic way to associate the story with something in real life. The sunflower depending on the variety will grow many feet tall and will seem like the enormous beanstalk in the story. Second, plants produce seeds, fruits and vegetables that your child can eat. Your child will enjoy knowing that food can be easy to grow. The best plant for this is a strawberry plant. Before letting your child eat anything grown in your home garden, you must educate him/her that there are also some poisonous plants that must not be touched. You would not want you child eating the poisonous foxglove in your front yard or getting near some poison ivy which could cause a child to avoid all types of plants because of fear.
All plants have beauty. Who does not love the beautiful scent of a flower or the decoverative aspects of many plants? If your child is allergic to pollen you might consider some plants that have been genetically bred to produce no pollen such as some types of lilies (mainly the multiple petal lilies) or plants that only produce foliage. Ask your child what is their favorite color and try to select a plant that is easy to grow for them. Even roses with few thorns are great for this. Flower bulbs are also great and easy to grow, just show children how to plant them with the type up or down depending on what plant it is.
Plants give everyone an added sense of responsibility. For a growing child, responsibility is crucial and plants help them learn this easily through caring for them. You might have to remember your child to water their growing plant once in a while because they are probably not used to growing plants. In this you can also remind your child not to water too much or too little, this all depends whether the type of plant needs more or less water than other plants.
Many plants are very interesting in terms of what they do. Some plants such as sunflowers follow the sun throughout the day. This can be fun for a child, new to the idea of plants. Some plants close their leaves at night such as shamrocks. Meanwhile other even eat insects such as the Venus Fly Trap or the infamous Pitcher plant. Other plants have medicinal uses such as foxglove for heart medicines, opium poppies for morphine which is a strong pain reliever, an aloe vera plant for cream and plants for dyes such as indigo or saffron. Even the Mimosa Pudica (also known as the Touch-Me-Not plant), which when touched droops its leaves. Certain plants repel insects such as the common annual, marigold. Catnip makes most cats playful and have an interesting effect on them. To show a child how interesting plants are you can begin by telling them a fact a day, just remember that what you might find interesting your child might also find interesting.
Patience is something that growing plants gives people and it is very helpful for a child to have in order to grow up to be a patient adult. You can start your child off with an easy to grow plant, then move on to a plant that is harder to grow or takes longer to bloom. Again, you do not want to start with a plant that is too hard for your child to grow because they will lose interest and be discouraged. You must also have patience, as you never want to discipline your child for killing your favorite plant or your most prized houseplant.
A local botanical garden can be an excellent way to introduce your child to plants as they will see the many different varieties of plants and their beauty. Some botanical gardens even have children related activities on certain days. It is to your benefit to let your child know as much as possible about plants because it will pay off in the end and they will grow up to be avid gardeners some day. Be ready to answer their questions or if there is a tour guide, they can also ask them.
These are just some of the ways that you can teach your child about plants. Every child is different but these are surefire ways to get your child interested in plants. There are still various ways to educate your child, just be creative.