The autumn half-term break provides a welcome breathing space in the busy family schedule. Use the extra time to explore and experience the plant kingdom on your child's own terms.
Botany for children
Take your child by the hand and go and visit the local flower shop or garden centre, where there is lots of fun and learning to be had. Make plants and their history into a little project in which you can go exploring together.
Let the child choose his or her own favourite plant, which is probably something quite different to what we adults would choose. Children use their senses in a different way, and are fascinated by colours, intense fragrances and interesting leaf shapes and surfaces.
Together, find out where the plant originally comes from and how it should be cared for. This will make it more fun and more concrete for the child to relate to.
Create a plant landscape
At home, place the plant in a pot large enough for the child to be able to water it without accidents. Create a play universe, where the child's favourite plants are placed in a tray with an edge. The plants can thereby be integrated into the children's play, providing a hideout, a shady spot, or part of a game in which the child's favourite toys can be included.
Make your own plant figure
Get your child to draw the head of an animal or a fantasy creature - maybe a happy dragon - as part of a plant figure. The actual body of the figure is a ball of steel wool, which is attached to a plant with tendrils, such as Wire vine (Muehlenbeckia). Then cover the steel wool with the fast-growing vines. Put the drawing on a stick and insert this into the steel wool ball, and you have your very own plant figure who will eventually grow big and strong!
Guess a plant
Set aside an afternoon for a fun plant game with the family, in which you guess plants from their descriptions. Make sure you have several different plants to choose from, and that the participants have not seen them in advance. Describe the plant gradually, for example: "It has long, thin leaves ...", "... that are prickly ...". The people guessing are allowed to ask questions.
Many plants have funny names, mostly to do with their appearance, such as Kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos), and this gives free rein to the imagination. If the children are old enough to be able to read, you can write down the names on a piece of paper. Take one name at a time, and try to match them with the different plants.
Suggestions for plants with funny names:
Tina Turner grass (Scirpus cernuus)
Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria)
Wolf's foot clubmoss (Selaginella)
Freckle face (Hypoestes)
Suggestions for plants that react when touched:
Carnivorous plants, such as Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) or Purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea)
Plants with exciting leaves and structures:
Radiator plant (Peperomia)
Torch plant (Aloe aristata)
Panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa)
Medusa's head (Euphorbia caput-medusae)