Plants That Will Please Your Kids & You

If you want your children to get in touch with nature this summer (and brighten up your home), organize a day of planting and perhaps you’ll be surprised by how much fun you’ll have. Plus, it doesn’t have to involve much more effort than a trip to your local nursery and finding an area in your home where you won’t mind a little bit of dirt. We consulted with Matthis Helmick, who runs a pop-up shop called Plant Mode in the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois.

“Plant Mode has customers of all ages, but the children are for sure my favorites,” says Helmick. “They see things for what they are: fun, fuzzy, green, soft, and alive. I hear, ‘Oh, it’s a little baby plant’ more than you would think.” Here are his tips on how to have your own plant party:

Tip #1: “Planting up plants can be a wonderful experience, but they can also be messy,” says Helmick. “Make sure you have an area that you are ready to have possibly covered with dirt. If it’s possible, create a planting station outside. That said, the kitchen table is pretty much usually ready to go… You are going to be surprised by the excitement that the words, ‘First, we have to make a planting station’ create.”

Tip #2: “Get your materials together: Drainage rock is best bought in bulk if you are going to do more than one planting. Pea gravel is great for drainage material and usually about $4.00 for a large bag. Decorative stones are too costly, and they are mostly polished up, and well…that nice smooth stone won’t be seen at the bottom of the planter.

Tip #3: “Avoid anything called garden soil or topsoil—this usually lacks loosening materials that help the roots breath. The bag will most likely say something like, ‘Great for indoor plants.’ I’d shoot for a nice loose potting mix. Also, I’m not a fan of the soils with any kind of chemical moisture-enhancing formulas. Plus, why cheat, if we are teaching our kids how to take care of plants. They should be taught how to look at the plants for signs of watering needs.”

Tip #4: “Some kiddos like to visit the local garden shops. Including them in the shopping part of things might be a fun way to connect them to the plants you are going to plant up. The connection to the plant can be stronger if they are allowed to pick it out.”

Tip #5: “It’s important to make sure the plant you are picking up isn’t toxic. The age range for this kind of activity can vary, so if your child is in the exploration stage of tasting things, please be careful. Ask the salesperson at the shop, or whip out that smart phone to make sure your newly discovered plant friend isn’t a poisonous jerk.”