Teaching a child how to take care of houseplants (passing your Green Thumb on to your child)

Years ago, I went on a date with a woman who showed up at my doorstep with a little plant that had only 4 yellow-spotted leaves. She was cute and tiny and I knew immediately that I would take good care of her. And thus began my love affair. With plants (obviously). I love indoor plants, and that was the plant that got it all started: my gold dust plant – otherwise known as the Aucuba japonica variegata.

That plant spent nearly two years in my sunless basement apartment, growing ever so slowly. I eventually moved into a sunnier 1-bedroom home where the plant grew a little more. Take a look at this comparison photo. This captures 5 years of growth:

Aucuba japonica variegata

Slowly and steadily, my home is becoming an indoor jungle, sans animals. Unless we count a sometimes feral 4 year old. In our 2-bedroom home we currently have 9 plants – something in every room and multiples in most.

Evelyn had a play date a few weeks ago, and one of the first things she did – rather than showing her friend her toys – was to introduce her to each and every one of our houseplants. Wide-eyed, her friend listened as Evelyn introduced them by name, and explained how they all earned their names. It was adorable but also, a little weird. Still, I’m proud of Evelyn’s pride in our house plants. She feels responsible for their care and well-being and gets a lot of joy out of watching them grow, talking to them and “feeding” (watering) them.

So how did I plant the seeds (ha ha) of her interest in and care for plants?

Start early: When Evelyn was a baby, I carted her around on my hip or in the baby carrier as I watered and talked to each plant. She would often reach for their leaves to pet them, or lean over to kiss them. She still does that – kisses them, that is.

Kissing our African Violet plant

Involve your child in the process: A couple of the plants we have, we started from seeds. Evelyn especially takes pride in these, because she’s watched them grow from the very beginning. We repot our plants every Spring, and she really enjoys digging in the dirt, choosing new “homes” (pots) for the plants and deciding which plant will go where in the house. I let her make these decisions (sometimes with guidance from me) and she feels accomplished once we’re done.

repotting plants
Yes, I really DO repot plants indoors.

Look for the lessons: Evelyn and I talk to our plants – we tell them they’re beautiful and we appreciate their presence in our home. If you’re rolling your eyes at this, just a sec – there have been experiments that show that plants that are spoken to negatively actually end up dying or wilting. Plants that are spoken to positively, thrive. Just like us humans, really.

Eventually when Evelyn is older, we will conduct this experiment in our home but right now, neither of us has the heart to speak bad words to any of our plants. I use the plants’ positive response to our kindness as an opportunity to tell Evelyn that people are the same way. The kinder we are, the more supportive we can be, the better we can make a friend or family member feel. Thanks to our “plant friends’ (as she calls them), I think she really “gets” it.

If you’d like to get an up close and personal look at our plants, go on our House Plants Summer 2017 tour on our YouTube channel:

That’s my personal YouTube channel where I do a lot of vlogging – this is where I have spent the bulk of my creative energy in recent history. Bri and I have vlogged a little about our relationship, and I make videos about my family’s adventures here in Toronto and Florida as well. If you’re a video watcher, please subscribe and follow along! And if not, no worries – I’ll still be blogging here every once in a while, over-sharing with my favourite blog readers (you – yes, that’s right – you!).

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” Barbara Cooney Miss Rumphius.

8 thoughts on “Teaching a child how to take care of houseplants (passing your Green Thumb on to your child)

  1. Charlotte and I just re-potted my two meager houseplants over the weekend. One of the two is fifteen years old. I want more, but we keep our house pretty dark during the day (because of the heat) and I just know they won’t thrive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wallace loves helping me with the plants! And he has a container of dirt with worms from his nature center class. He feeds them scraps and talks to them. I need to get better at my house plant care… do you use tap water, or filtered?


  3. I LOVE that study that you linked to about the power of our words. That’s amazing! I might have to share that one. Now if only I could get my girls to speak more nicely to one another ❤ 😛


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