With the sweet smell of spring in the air, there’s no better way to welcome a new season than by caring for plants with your child. The Montessori approach encourages practical life activities that teach children to gently care for the environment and smaller living things. Gifting your child with a plant to care for allows them to feel “ownership” of the plant, which creates a willingness to want to care for and keep the plant healthy. And when a child sees that the plant is relying on them to survive it gives them a sense of accountability and purpose. It also helps develop patience and confident expectation.
“Set the child at agricultural labour, guiding him to the cultivation of plants and animals, and so to the intelligent contemplation of nature. The children are inspired with a feeling for nature, which is maintained by the marvels of creation – that creation which rewards with a generosity not measured by the labour of those who help it to evolve the life of its creatures.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
Choose an existing plant in your home or visit the nursery with your child to pick out a plant of their own. Look for plants with different types of leaves, and a variety of textures, shapes and colours.
Let your child know that plants are living and remind them how important it is to take care of plants with love and care. Talk about the different parts of the plant, types of plants, if it needs to live in a sunny or shady spot, and what happens if you over- or under-water the plant.
Caring for the plant
- Remove damaged or brown leaves with scissors.
- Wet a sponge or cotton rounds, and clean the leaves. Show your child how to squeeze out the excess water over the plant before cleaning.
- Demonstrate how to be very gentle so as to not break the leaves.
- Water the plant using a small watering can, a mist sprayer (less messy and children really enjoy spraying it) or use a bowl/pitcher filled with water. Keep a towel nearby for your child to wipe up any water spills.
- Clean up with your child and return the plant to its usual spot.
Introduce the scientific term of the plant, which can be found on the label that comes with a plant. If your child has started writing letters you can help him/her copy out the words of the plant.
Discuss the texture and temperature of the plant’s leaves. Are the leaves smooth or rough? Do they feel warm or cool?
Keep a little notebook handy for your child to record growth and changes in the plant. Some ideas to consider:
- Count and keep track of the number of leaves on your plant.
- Measure the length and width of a leaf.
- Record the changing height of the plant.
Plant care in a Montessori home doesn’t need to take up a lot of space and it’s a beautiful, organic way to allow small children to have an active role in taking care of your home. It gives them the opportunity to notice small changes, take ownership and responsibility, remember how to fix the problem, and the overall satisfaction of caring for the plant. Best of all, it needn’t be limited to pot plants; if you have a garden – big or small – encourage them to get involved in gardening outdoors too. It’s a wonderful way to bond with your child and spend quality time outdoors in nature.