A wave of research has shown the value of getting kids involved with gardening, with some schools and local authorities setting up allotments and gardening schemes in response. Esteemed childhood psychologists, such as Montessori and Steiner, have championed the value of young people interacting with plants, for at least 100 years.
For those not lucky enough to have access to gardens (or just those looking to green up their interiors) indoor plants can fill a gap for budding gardeners. Most of the activities involved in indoor plant care are also less messy and none are weather dependant!
So, if you’re worried about kids being cooped up on a rainy day and stuck behind screens, plant care may be the answer.
What kids gain from caring for plants
A lot of the benefits kids get from plant care actually apply to adults too, but for some reason, we don't think of ourselves as so easily influenced!
Some important lessons that can be imparted via plant care include:
Self-confidence – seeing the (sometimes literal) fruits of labour helps increase self-worth and shows young people that their actions have (positive) consequences.
Responsibility – telling kids that they’re responsible for a plant’s welfare is a great (and safe) way of giving them a sense of responsibility.
Improved cognitive skills – living and working in environments with a high density of plants has been linked to improved focus, faster reaction times and a greater capacity for retention.
What's more, a lot of the research published to support these claims was actually conducted in classrooms with young participants. For example, a relatively large study, which analysed the effect of filling Dutch primary school classrooms with air-purifying plants, found that a high concentration of air-purifying plants in the classroom improved test scores by 35% and reduced health concerns by 7%.
Better mental health – living amongst plants has been shown to reduce stress levels, make us more compassionate and increase overall wellbeing. The reasons for this are in part to do with our innate compatibility with plants (on a bio-evolutionary level) and in part to do with the psychological impact of looking after plants.
In contrast with activities that force young people to evaluate themselves against their peers, plant care can help increase levels of compassion for themselves and others. Where activities based around screens (video games, social media, TV etc.) are highly stimulating and negatively affect concentration levels, plant care allows kids and adolescents to slow down and reflect.
Which plants should you start with?
When it comes to selecting plants for kids, it’s worth considering the following:
One of the main things to consider is that most children want to see the fruits of their labour quickly, so consider speedy growers like cress and wheatgrass.
If you’re choosing a houseplant for a kid’s bedroom, you may want to choose a plant from the Restore section of the website. Under Restore you’ll find plants which respond to night and day, such as Calatheas, which close their leaves a night (thought to help induce sleep).
Plant that improve air quality
Bloombox Club believes in demystifying plant care. With adages about green fingers, reams of books and experts on the internet telling you about ‘plant care courses,’ no one could blame you for thinking that plant care wasn’t for everyone.
Nevertheless, it might be worth picking a plant that can deal with varying light levels (such as an Emerald Palm or Dracaena) and a bit of neglect – a word of warning though: if you pick a tough Snake Plant or Cactus, make sure your kid doesn’t kill their plant with kindness. Most adults overwater their plants, so a valuable portion of plant wisdom to impart will be ‘less is more!’
Read more about plants and wellbeing here.