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Cell Wall Lesson for Kids: Definition & Function

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Did you ever wonder how plants can stand up tall without bones to hold them up? Plants get their shape and support from the cell walls that surround their cells. Learn how cell walls help trees grow tall and droopy plants bounce back with water.

What is a Cell Wall?

Think about your school building. The classrooms inside are divided by walls that give the building support and structure, yet you can enter and exit any classroom through its door. The classroom walls inside your school are like the cell walls inside a plant. A cell wall is a strong, protective structure that surrounds a plant cell.

Like the doors of your classroom, a plant cell wall has holes called plasmodesmata (pronounced plaz-muh-des-muh-tuh) that allow substances to move in and out of the cell. Because plant cells are close together, these plasmodesmata give plant cells a way of communicating and sharing substances.

A cell wall surrounds a plant cell.
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Under the cell wall is a cell membrane. Animal cells don't have cell walls, but they do have cell membranes, which help control which substances are allowed to enter and exit a cell.

Cell Wall Functions

The cell wall provides support and strength for growing plants. Think about what would happen to your body if you didn't have a skeleton inside. Without a bony skeleton to hold you up, your body would be a pile of mush on the floor. Now think about a really tall tree. It doesn't have a skeleton, so it needs to get its support and strength from the firm walls that cover its cells.

If you have a garden, you probably know that bugs love plants. The strong cell walls of plants provide some protection for the plants against insects and certain substances that could invade and infect the plant.

Cell walls also help a plant hold its shape, even when it's thirsty. Have you ever seen a plant outside on a hot, sunny day? After a few hours without water, the plant will start to droop, yet it still holds its basic shape thanks to its cell walls. If you give the plant a drink of water, it will perk right back up to normal. If you give the plant too much to drink, the rigid structure of the cell wall prevents the cell from taking in too much water and bursting.

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