Caring for plants, both indoors and outdoors, is part of our daily routine at home. Our sunny and warm climate means our plants require watering, trimming and attention frequently. We always keep a watering can and mister handy. As important as it is for the plants to be cared for, the benefits to the child are tremendous—enhancing small and large muscle development, independence, confidence, and eye-hand coordination—to name a few. The child also learns to wonder about the plants and become mindful of their needs. This awareness is instilled in a very natural way and can translate to the care of animals and family, too. All living things are interdependent.

Although our outdoor time can be full of spontaneous nature experiences, I also use it as an opportunity to point out specifics, such as: Parts of the Tree. After pointing out the areas of the tree, I explain that the roots are like fingers that grab on to the soil. We then imagine ‘being’ the tree … “Feel the soil on your feet? Let the water run up your trunk; feel it? Imagine the water going all the way to the branches (arms) and the stems (hands), and finally the leaves (fingers). The leaves are going to make food from the air, sunlight and water. Plants are the only living things that make their own food!” The purpose of this activity is to help the child understand both the plant’s structure and how it functions.

The best way to teach the child about the living world is to expose him to nature and real things. Showing the child a nest in a tree reveals its contribution to life as shelter for animals. Picking vegetables from a plant growing in a garden and then preparing and eating them together will leave a lasting impression, too. Seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting all nature has to offer is believing. And to think, all these lessons can begin with a mister in hand while caring for a plant.

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