On a scale from polyester leaves to rainforest, how plant-friendly is your household? Do you enjoy the occasional whiff of extra oxygenated air, or do you shy away from live plants because they seem like too much work? Have you considered enlisting your kids in helping care for plants? Research shows teaching kids to care for things like pets, siblings, or plants can benefit their emotional development. And as long as you choose toxin-free plants, even your littlest can be involved. Let’s take a look at a few simple guidelines to get those green thumbs growing!
First, let’s talk about all the reasons why you’d want to have plants in your home. Did you know house plants can purify your air? They remove formaldehyde (a carcinogen), benzene and xylene (from gasoline exhaust), and other volatile organic compounds, which can cause a whole host of health issues. House plants also increase the humidity inside your home, which is especially beneficial in preventing illness during cold winter months. House plants can also improve concentration. A study from the University of Michigan found when people interacted with nature, their memory and attention spans improved (what parent doesn’t want that?).
Finally, child development experts agree that allowing children to help care for plants can help them develop good social skills, including the ability to show empathy for other people and living things. See more information here and here.
So What Plants Are Safe for Kids?
There are lots of great options to choose from. But you’ll want to be sure that the label on the plant at the store matches correctly. And while these are non-toxic, we recommend adult supervision while kids are helping out. Finally, it should go without saying that these plants should never be ingested or used in teas.
Some great house plants for kids include: zebra plants, African violets, donkey tails, Boston ferns, Christmas cacti (no sharp spines here!), corn plants (Dracaena fragrans), and spider plants. For a full list, click here. You’ll want to choose plants based on its size and its needs. Are you often gone on vacation? Choose a plant that doesn’t require frequent watering (corn plants, for instance).
How Can Kids Help?
One of the fun parts about involving kids in caring for plants is helping them learn and perhaps do the research it takes to keep plants alive. If you’re up for it, have them interview a gardener at a local nursery, or head to the library to search out some how-to books. Kids can help with plants by choosing the right dirt or fertilizer, planting them in fun containers, watering them, moving them into or out of direct sun (according to their needs), removing dead leaves, replanting them if they outgrow their container. They can even give away a plant to a friend with instructions on how to care for it (many plants can regrow if you replant a shoot or stem).
So there you have it! Reasons why you’d want a house plant (or two or three) and ways that kids can be involved. Maybe taking care of plants will help your kids want to take care of other things … like their dishes or their dirty laundry. Here’s hopin’!