We love this app for its self-directed style of play and discovery, as well as the optional parent-child interactions as kids explore various biomes and the plants that grow in them. Whether pollinating bloodroot flowers or beaming sun down on dates as they ripen on their trees, kids will enjoy the many surprises along their learning path.
Prepare to use the app by introducing one of these activities:
Plan a storytime all about plants. Some titles you might want to consider are: Seed to Plant, Flip, Float, Fly, Plant Secrets, Who Will Plant a Tree?, A Tree Is a Plant, The Reason For a Flower, and The Tree Lady.
Well “Plants” is not the most exciting of titles, but it certainly gives room for a broad range of conversations. Ask your child what they know about plants, where plants grow in the world, what different types of plants they have heard of, etc. How do plants grow? What do they need? What does your child hope to find out in the app?
Help your child get the most out of an app experience by trying the following activities:
Use the recording feature of the app, triggered by holding down on the screen of your device, to tell stories related to the scenes and illustrations. You might begin by holding down near the dunes in the desert and introducing a story about a tired gazelle looking for water. Then give your child a turn. Suggest they record the next part of the story following the gazelle’s path, a little further down or to the side. Perhaps the gazelle encounters a frightening lightening storm! Continue the story telling, taking turns and revealing a line or two of the story each time, until the gazelle reaches the oasis and finds water. Then listen to your whole story together!
Discuss and Interact
Ask questions that will prompt actions from your child while using the app. If you plant an acorn, how much time has to pass (by spinning the time wheel) before you see it begin to grow? What happens when you rub two clouds together? How does the landscape change after a fire? Over time? What happens at dusk in the summertime? In the desert, what does the alfalfa need to grow? What parts grow first? What parts develop last? What effect does the sun have on the date palm tree? You can set questions up ahead of time by recording them in your child’s account, too. Once your child has recorded a response, you will be able to continue the conversation through the parent dashboard.
Choose an actual example from the biomes in the app to learn about in greater detail. Perhaps your child would like to learn about the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee or the Sonoran Desert in Arizona! Do research in books and online. Finish up by playing travel agent and having your child plan an imaginary trip to the area! What would you need to pack in your bags?
Extend the app experience with these real life activities:
Take a Hike
Explore your neighborhood or a local park. It might be fun to check out a nature guidebook from your local library ahead of time. How many plants can your child identify? Do some research on the history of the park or neighborhood by online, at your library, or by visiting your town or city’s historical society (it is often helpful to call ahead of time!). How has the landscape changed over time? What effects have humans had? For instance, my neighborhood began as a development in the early 1900s and all of the streets were named after different types of maples. Residents were encouraged to plant the maple for which their street was named on their property. Now, over a hundred years later, maples are everywhere in the neighborhood! What effects have other plants or animals had? Are there any invasive species, for example? What plants and animals does your child see most frequently?
Plant a Tree
Some of the activities in the Plants app require time and patience, much like nature in real life. Help your child understand the power of time in nature by planting a tree. You can plant one indoors or outdoors. Good options for indoor trees include the fiddleleaf fig tree, rubber tree, Norfolk pine tree, or guinea chestnut tree. Other good indoor tree options are suggested on this blog. If you want to plant a tree outside but do not have a yard or terrace space of your own, try calling your town or city’s parks and recreation department to see if there is a place nearby where you could plant a tree and help care for it. They might suggest a variety of trees to plant, too. Involve your child in the selection, planting, and caring for the tree. Take a picture every few months or every year of your child next to the tree to see how time makes a difference in the growth of both the plant and the kiddo!
Math in Nature
Nature is full of mysteries and wonder. Teach your child about a mathematical mystery that frequently occurs in nature, Fibonacci numbers. The Fibonacci sequence begins 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… each number in the pattern comes from adding the two numbers that immediately precede it. Check out the book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, by Sarah Campbell. After reading this with your child, send your child out on a sort of scavenger hunt for some of the plants other plants or objects in nature illustrated in the book that contain Fibonacci numbers such as sunflowers, pineapples, seashells, etc. Can they find a plant or object not shown in the book that contains the pattern? Have fun!
Make a desert terrarium! Provide your child with an open glass jar or planter, gravel, cactus potting soil, sand, grafted cacti or succulent plants, and any other decorative materials your child would like to add. First add a layer of gravel, then the succulent plants, then the cactus potting soil, and finally another layer of gravel. Finish with any other decorations your child wants to add. Voila! Your child now has their very own desert. They should water the plants about once a month with about two teaspoons of water. Get step-by-step instructions along with visuals here.