April 22, 2019

How Plants Aid Children’s Mental and Physical Health

We always hear about the copious mental and physical health benefits of spending time
outdoors. Studies have proven that children who spend time immersed in nature to
connect with their surroundings are much happier and attentive than children who spend
more time indoors, exposed to TV and video games. However, for children who live in
harsh climates such the Canadian winters, spending time outdoors and connecting with
nature can be limited.

Good news is, the health benefits of outdoor exposure can still be achieved without
hiking or building a sandcastle. Taking care of household plants may be the simplest way
to achieve the same advantages as outdoor time.

Our classrooms at Pine Lake Montessori School are filled with household plants, herb
gardens, and fresh flowers for children ages 18 months to 9 years to nurture in their
respective classrooms. The plethora of benefits include gaining respect for their
immediate environment, understanding global ecology, and admiring the value of what
human contribution offers.

This activity does not have to be a complicated task. Children can be taught to lightly and
gently wipe the dust off the leaves of a houseplant, then touch the soil to feel the moisture
content to determine if the plant needs water. Small jars (shown in the picture) are perfect
for children with small hands to successfully watering the plants.

The level of difficulty can increase based on the child’s age. While a toddler could only
do the watering and dusting, a 4 year-old child could cut the dead leaves with a pair of
scissors, while a 6 year-old could help with the fertilization process.
Tending to plants develops children’s; creativity and imagination, helps concentration and
ability to focus, refines their control of movement, increases responsibility and
dedication, and helps with building higher self-esteem.

Additional bonuses: This practice can be extended to teaching a child about botany.
Children could learn different parts of a plant, different parts of a leaf or a flower. The
difficulty of Botany lessons can advance with the child’s age, but gaining their general
intrigue and curiosity is also fostered. For instance, a child in lower elementary could
learn the functions of different parts of a plant and how they contribute to the wellbeing
of a plant, resulting in critical thinking skills.

Extensions on this activity:
• Children could make herb/vegetable gardens indoors in the winter and transfer them
to outside during the summer season for the whole family to enjoy the fresh at home.
• Children can grow flowers in pots or in their backyard use them for making beautiful
flower arrangements to beautify their environment.
A good read: We always recommend a book to the parents during our Parent Partnership
Nights. We currently recommend Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From

 

Nature-Deficit Disorder by American author and journalist Richard Louv. He writes
about the health benefits of exposing children to nature in a generation more often wired
to digital screens and video games.

 

Download the infographic