How a Homemade Terrarium Teaches Kids about the Environment (and How to Make One)

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

Creating your own terrarium is an interactive way to add some indoor greenery to your home. Not only do indoor plants help improve air quality naturally, but a homemade terrarium is an exciting family project that teaches kids about sustainability.

What Is A Terrarium?

Making a terrarium is like designing your own miniature ecosystem. By completely enclosing plants in a glass container, or having just a small opening, you create a greenhouse effect, trapping in some heat from the sun and moisture. This is a great science project to teach kids about the environment and how it can sustain itself. As you work, explain how all the components work together in a constant cycle with heat, causing moisture in the soil to evaporate and create droplets on the glass that then fall right back to the plant to repeat the process.

Picking Your Plants

Terrariums usually function best with plants that require minimal care and that can thrive indoors without large amounts of direct sunlight. Succulents are great option and so are small cacti. Ferns, mosses, and other traditional indoor green plants are also ideal choices. Try to pick a few small plants to mix together and create a small garden. When blending plants though, it’s important to keep similar types together. It’s not a good idea to blend ferns and succulents, for example, since they have different needs when it comes to watering.

What You Need

The container you pick for your homemade terrarium will depend on the plants you’re using. For succulents and cacti you need a container that has at least a small opening, like an old fish bowl or a vase, so that the plants can get plenty of air. For ferns and mossy plants it’s better to have a container that’s enclosed to trap the moisture inside. Make sure it’s a lid that you can open though, so you can access the plants if needed. No matter what container you choose, try to find one you already have to reuse (another great lesson in recycling and minimizing waste).

Besides the container you’ll also need small rocks, activated charcoal to help filter the water and prevent mold from growing, and potting soil.

Putting It All Together

To begin, line the bottom of your container with the rocks and add a ½-inch layer of charcoal (this part can be messy).

Line the bottom with rocks and charcoal.

Next add the soil, filling the container about halfway. Leave enough room for some ‪open space above the plants.

Add soil next for the terrarium.

Last, arrange your plants in the soil. This is where little hands can come on handy, especially if you have a smaller jar or container.

Last add your plants to the terrarium.

Give it some water, and place the terrarium near a window or spot where it will get some indirect natural light.

Besides having a beautiful display, your family will have a constant reminder of how an ecosystem works and why it’s important that the environment maintains its natural, self-sustaining balance. When you’re all done, show off your terrarium making skills and share pics of your plants on Twitter.

Image source: Sher Warkentin

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

A homemade terrarium is a fun project to do with your kids that can add some greenery to your home. Beyond the beauty, however, making your own terrarium is a great opportunity to teach kids about climate and how the natural environment is self-sustaining.