Introducing kids to plant life is a great way to get them involved and interested in the outdoors. Bonsai offers a unique opportunity for kids to experience DIY gardening. The plants are both fun and exciting to look at and can create quite the little green thumb in the family. Check out these bonsai plants basics for kids to encourage a better relationship with nature:
Understand the History
Bonsai is the Japanese term meaning “tree in tray” and is an ancient Japanese art form. Bonsai is the art of growing small trees or plants in pots and pruning them to create a particular shape. Many bonsai trees appear just like the larger ones outdoors but are substantially smaller by comparison. Part of introducing your kids to bonsai plants is to understand the Japanese culture and the importance that this art form is to the people of Japan. In fact, learning about a culture can easily be done through gardening and taking care of plants (see how we planted a Chinese vegetable garden).
Know the Plants
The best bonsai trees are those that have tiny or small leaves so that they don’t overpower the plant. Bonsai plants can start from a seed placed directly into the bonsai planter. Tree starts or cuttings from other outdoor trees can do well as a bonsai plant. The practice of bonsai gardening is training what would be a large tree to actually become a small tree by limiting the space where the roots can grow.
Do Your Research
Sticking a small tree in a pot is not the art of bonsai. The cultural and learning aspects of this type of gardening are essential for both you and your child to understand. Bonsai is the art form surrounding the growth of a small tree in a small pot. We recommend reading books about bonsai as well as taking a local class that could help further your education on this ancient art.
Gather Your Supplies
Once you feel confident in your bonsai knowledge and skills, you can start gathering the supplies needed to plant. Start with a small tree or seedling in a small pot with shallow sides. Remember that you won’t be transplanting the plant as it grows, so make sure that you like the container that you choose. There are also starter kits available online that include both a pot as well as different bonsai plants. Some even include mini shovels and pruning tools that kids will love. Using fresh soil is an essential part of growing bonsai as well.
Place It Well
While some bonsai plants can stay inside year-round, a healthy bonsai tree should spend time outdoors during the warm months if possible. Understanding your bonsai tree variety and its optimal growing conditions is vital to the success of your bonsai experience. Placing a bonsai tree outdoors during the growing season is an excellent way to keep it healthy. Bring the tree indoors during inclement weather or right before the first frost appears. Bonsai plants can’t handle cold temperatures given their small and shallow root system. Choosing a sunny spot indoors that is easy to access for kids is also vital to the success of growing bonsai.
Bonsai plants help children learn more about plant life as well as get them excited about nature. Through learning the bonsai plants basics, kids, can connect with the Japanese culture also. Engaging in smaller plants can help children feel more relaxed about their ability to interact with the outdoors. You could be planting a seed of your own, as well — one day, your young Bonsai planter could grow up to landscape their own yard. Caring for a small plant has many benefits that help the child connect with nature as well as learn about the outside world. Consider these bonsai plant basics for kids wanting to learn more about nature this year.
About the author: Kristina Phelan is a freelance writer specializing in home living and landscaping. Her parenting column, Mama Bear Moxie, is printed in a few newspapers across the country. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her husband, three kiddos, and too many animals.