Plant Power

By Rebecca Shah-Harvey 2020-06-05 14:55:26

The Long-Term Benefits for Children Who Develop a Green Thumb Early

Walking amongst the shards of sunlight that cut through the canopy of trees, the ground soft and rich beneath my feet. Crisp spring air flushes my cheeks, with the scent of pine anointing every cloud of breath. When you surround yourself with nature, a calmness, a strength, a sense of wellbeing ensues.

Life in Shanghai seldom provides these opportunities. Instead, we pound the hard, flat pavements, dive into the hustle and bustle of city life, our eyesight littered with the harsh lines of manmade structures. Children raised in the city normalise themselves in this environment. Coupled with our reliance on technology, children today experience more screen time than ever before. From cartoons to video clips, gaming apps to online learning, we are ever- more removed from nature.

With less and less time outdoors, children are suffering the consequences. Growing obesity rates, stress, anxiety and depression are just some of the effects on their health. The term, a metaphor to describe this phenomenon, has now been coined as ‘Nature- Deficit Disorder.‘ Led by the work of Richard Louv, author of ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder’, there is a growing body of research into the effects of an urbanised lifestyle on our children. However, if we look a little closer, the city provides countless opportunities to fight against this disorder.

Children who engage with nature are happier, more attentive, and less anxious. Exploring different paths and navigating through the woods encourages your child to make choices, take risks and build confidence. It develops creativity and imagination. Learning to take care of plants promotes responsibility for the natural world and encourage children to ask more scientific questions. Senses are stimulated in nature, which Louv describes as “the richness of human experience”. Children are more likely to feel these health benefits when engaging with nature, as they move more, further develop fine motor skills and learn to focus. With effortless attention on the natural world, children’s ability to learn and overall wellbeing will be greatly improved.

Head Outside

Shanghai is full of nature. With tree-lined streets, compound gardens and purpose-built parks, there is plenty of opportunities to develop an appreciation of nature within minutes of your front door.

  • Play tree bingo; identifying trees by their leaves.
  • Collect some fallen leaves/twigs to create a piece of natural artwork.
  • Read a book together under a tree.
  • Sit, close you're yes and listen to the sounds around you.

Bring the Outdoors In
One of the most powerful ways you can develop a love of nature is to welcome plants into your home. House plants such as English ivy, a snake plant, spider plants, aloe and Chinese evergreens are known to clean the air of pollutants. They are the world’s natural air filters. And flowering plants such as hyacinths and chrysanthemums bring colour and joy to the apartment environment.

Build a Terrarium
Create your own miniature microclimate in a bottle. Large jars, old fish tanks or recycled plastic bottles make the perfect container for little hands to build a piece of nature. Start with soil and small plants such as artillery ferns, pothos and creeping fig, decorating with moss, rocks, twigs and shells. Ter- terrariums also make a perfect gift to bring some nature into other people’s lives.

Herb Garden

A few small pots of herbs will fill your home with gorgeous scents, and add a special touch to homecooked meals. With a sunny window and good quality soil, your herb garden will help your child to understand the basics of food production. Try basil, parsley, dill, oregano, thyme, and peppermint.

Kitchen Gardens
Even in a small apartment you can reap the rewards of your very own kitchen garden. Perfect in a south-facing window, again you’ll need good quality soil plus pots with good drainage. A kitchen cart is ideal for children to manage. Think about runner beans, carrots, tomatoes, chives, garlic, baby lettuce, or even a chilli plant!

While it may be easier to sit down with a device, engaging with the natural world will benefit your child for years to come. Children today will soon have to figure out how to fix the mistakes of generations past, providing solutions to issues of sustainability and not adding to it; and an appreciation for the natural world is a great place to start. Watching a seed sprout and grow into a little piece of nature on your very own window- sill can provide the awe and wonder our children are in need of. So, head out for a walk, bring nature indoors, plant a seed and enjoy a little bit of plant power!