As any gardener or parent knows, growing plants teaches about the natural world as well as life lessons about patience, persistence, caring and responsibility. Easy-to-grow houseplants will give children the pleasure of watching something grow as a result of their efforts. Yvonne Cunnington in the Kaboose website says that children love giant and tiny plants, as well as those that have unique shapes, unusual colors and lots of texture, either soft or prickly.
Easy-to-grow cacti are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, so choosing a number of small varieties will be a fun activity for children. Cacti also provide an opportunity for children to learn about the class of plants called succulents, which store water in their fleshy leaves or skin. Barbara Damrosch in "The Garden Primer" recommends the old lady cactus, mammillaria hahnianha, with long white hairs and red flowers, the golden star cactus, mammillaria elongate, which is very tiny and has clusters of long projections, and the Christmas cactus, schlumbergera truncate, which is fast growing and produces a profusion of flowers around November or December.
If you have a window with bright but indirect light, any fern will be easy for a child to grow. Many ferns have long arching fronds. Others, just as easy to grow, have their own unique features. The rabbit's-foot fern from the South Pacific has long brown, furry rhizomes that dangle down the sides of the pot. The staghorn fern has leaves that look like antlers instead of fronds and can be grown on a piece of wood or bark with its roots wrapped in moss. All ferns need regular watering except in winter, when the soil can dry out between watering. Ferns with lacy fronds benefit from occasional misting with a spray from a water bottle, which will be great fun for children.
The spider plant is fast growing, easy-care and attractive, with variegated white and green leaves. The spider plant produces interesting baby plants dangling down from the mother plant that make the plant look like a spider with long legs. Let the plant dry out between watering and to feed it every two weeks in spring and summer. Propagate spider plant babies, or rosettes, by simply removing them and planting them in a small pot. Children can easily give gifts of spider plants to friends and family.