The idea of getting your kids out to explore the nature might be a little daunting, but playtime outdoors can bring various benefits. According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, spending time in nature can benefit children’s health by improving concentration, supporting motor fitness and intellectual development, fostering greater mental acuity and inventiveness, and much more.
However, these days it can be hard to get your little ones engaged with nature, thanks to the ubiquity of electronic devices like tablets and smartphones. Luckily, there are ways to get your kids to have fun and be entertained outdoors, even when there are no screens. Here are some activities you can try:
Make a Routine
Create a habit that will get your children out and about regularly, even if it is as simple as a walk in the park. Making a routine helps your children realise that nature is an important part of their lives. Twice or three times a week is recommended, although more can be better.
Introduce and Guide
Everything is new to your little ones, which makes it a perfect time to guide them through all elements in nature. Encourage them to draw the trees throughout the seasons, quiz them on the names/colours of different birds, or get them to smell flowers and feel seeds in their hands – all (safe) sensory stimulations are welcome.
Plan to Have No Agenda
To boost their engagement even further, also allow largely unstructured playtimes where kids can do whatever they are interested in outdoors, rather than following a prescribed plan. This will nurture their creativity and put the leisure time on their terms.
Go on an Excursion
Guided excursions are not only fun and engaging, but they can also let your kids learn more about the wonders of nature. A trip to the zoo, a national park, a fruit farm or an observatory is always a good idea to develop your children’s curiosity in nature.
Start a Collection
A collection box can nurture your children’s engagement with nature and allow them to look back on their past activities. The options are endless – from inanimate objects such as pebbles, leaves and twigs to live ones such as plants and bugs.
The following is some important information about what is becoming a valuable (and popular) commodity in the world of nutritious food. Perhaps you can guess… what is cholesterol-free; low in calories; fat-free (on its own in nature, without human intervention); more potassium per volume than a banana; super hydrating, essential to the body; loaded with electrolytes; and great for the skin? Well, with that information it’s an easy choice to choose some simply delicious coconut water. Rumors abound about other health benefits, from cancer, hangovers and kidney stones.
And it is water, as opposed to coconut milk, or oil. Specifically, it is a clear liquid made from the centre of a young, green coconut.
It has less sodium, fewer calories, and more potassium than a sports drink. When unflavored, and considering slight variances due to Mother Nature, on a per ounce basis, coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, 1.3 grams (g) of sugar, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to a very popular sports drink, which has 6.25 calories, 3.75 mg of potassium, 1.75 g of sugar, and 13.75 mg of sodium.
With less sugar than a lot of sports drinks and a great deal less than sodas and many fruit juices, plain coconut water could be a better choice for adults and kids looking for a beverage that is less sweet. Lillian Cheung, DSc, RD, of Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of Savor Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, has said that for any beverage these days we have to watch labels so as to avoid added juices or sugar and reminds us that plain coconut water is a good choice.
Does the picture above make you feel uneasy and sneeze-y? Or do you know someone like that but still want to give them a bunch of flowers to brighten their day? Or perhaps if you have to buy a bouquet and aren’t sure if you’ll need to give the person a box of Claratyne on the side, whatever your reason for clicking on this post the list below is sure to help!
Naturally found in the northern climates, Hydrangeas come in a variety of beautiful colours and are relatively low in the sneeze inducing department.
Mostly unscented and ranging from chartreuse to gold, these are a pretty low maintenance option as they don’t require much water or sunlight.
A pollen-free option! Lilies are beautiful, come in a variety of colours and won’t have their pollen flying around making life miserable for others. Just watch out for the type of lilies you’re buying as some varieties can have an intense scent which may bother some people.
If you want to opt for a pot plant gift or you want to transition your garden to being allergen-minimal, geraniums are a great option that work better in pots as opposed to bouquets. If you have an area of the garden that you want to fill up, these are also a great option to do that.
If you no longer want to be the vegetarian afterthought on the menu, or if you just want to explore what a vegetarian menu really has to offer then take a look at the places below, not all are vegetarian but they will definitely not leave the options at a mere salad or ‘you can have this but ask for no meat’.
205 Victoria Road Marrickville 2204
A 35 seater in Marrickville, this place will guarantee you a meat free pizza and pasta experience with a bit of Negroni on the side and even gluten free options for those in need. To keep things fresh the pizzas will rotate around every week but don’t worry, I doubt they’ll be off the menu for long. After all how can you keep something like a multi-cheese pizza with a washed rind, fior di latte, blue cheese, warrigal greens and hazelnuts of a menu for long?
91 Glebe Point Road Glebe 2037
A middle eastern joint in Glebe that offers a lil somethin’ somethin’ extra to its dishes. This place offers both meat and vegetarian dishes a-plenty so there is something for almost everyone. Now, be warned, these dishes are more interesting than your typical vegetarian options, I mean something like barbequed broccolini with labne, burnt honey and za’atar (grilled field mushroom with cavolo nero, enoki mushrooms and fermented shiitake mushrooms) or a crumpet-like turmeric baghrir with honey crème fraîche, grape molasses and confit leek, honestly sound delicious with a side of drool but I’ve had some uncertain looks when mentioning this to some acquaintances.
417 Crown Street Surry Hills
Yulli’s is another fully vegetarian restaurant offering a wide range of predominantly Asian fusion dishes, with some Mexican and Moroccan thrown in. It’s also a fully licensed venue which means that you won’t have to divert to another pub post food coma. The interior and service here are simple and casual, working well to offer consistent crowd favourites making this a reliable place to return to time and time again. Pro tip: if this is your first time, don’t go during peak hour, this place is a crowd favourite after all.
40 Reservoir Street Surry Hills 2010
One for the vegans, this offers an inventive mexican menu that’ll impress even the meat eaters. Don’t believe me? The cauliflower with seaweed salt, cashew cream, salsa verde, coriander, crispy shallots and Chinese pancakes has been the joint’s most popular dish since even before its vegan switch up. They have a rotating taco that is determined by the seasonal availabilities, local wines, tequila and an awesome 80s inspired playlist that’s not too shabby at all.
57 Macleay Street Potts Point 2011
A fine dining experience on the famous yellow terrace that used to exhibit the best of the local artists back in the 80s, these days they serve up some of the best vegetarian fine dining experiences out there. It first opened in 2014 made the veggie switch in 2016 to become Sydney’s first fine dining vegetarian and vegan restaurant, save for the famous weekend brunches. You’ll get a la carte every day except Saturday, where you’ll instead choose between five- and seven-course tasting menus with an equally refined wine list to match. Set aside a few hours to relish in the experience and enjoy.
Shopping for plants is always fun, whether you want to expand your garden or just get a succulent for your office desk. However, it can be hard to pick out the best shops in your area that have not only high quality greeneries, but also a wide selection for gardeners of all levels. To help you get started, here are four best gardening shops in Sydney’s Inner West…
Newtown Garden Market
538 King Street, Newtown
This centre specialises in apartment gardening – from indoor leafy plants to succulents and pots to pond plants, nothing is off limits.
Flower Power Garden Centre Enfield
27 Mitchell Street, Enfield
Flower Power is like a one-stop shopping centre. The garden centre, which comprises of indoor and outdoor nurseries boasting diverse collections, is complemented with fresh fruit and veggie palace, giftware and homeware shops, pet care centre, and a café.
Annandale Garden Centre
34-36 Booth Street, Annandale
As a locally-owned business, Annandale Garden Centre is humble yet rich. Other than shrubs and aquatic plants, the store also offers a wide range of bonsai, cacti, seedlings, herbs and many more. Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for advice on vertical gardening and terrarium building!
Butterfly Blooms Garden Centre
162-166 Unwins Bridge Road (corner of Sutherland Street), St Peters
You know how cafes told you to “bring your own cup”? Well, you can do the same thing at Butterfly Blooms with your pot for the staff to fill. This large centre indeed has everything you need – from pots, flowers, seeds to bags of potting mixes.
The internet is a great source for learning everything, including gardening. If you’d rather watch than read, Youtube could be your choice of platform. Here are a few Youtube channels that would help you learn more about gardening, from aquaponic system to container farming. Check them out!
Pilarchik’s channel is one of the most informative resources you can find on the Net when it comes to gardening. If you’re very new to gardening, you can also check his second channel New Gardeners which have videos with more detailed instructions.
When it comes to outdoor gardening, landscaping and edible farming, Raymond Browning’s Praxxus55712 has everything you need. Don’t have a huge backyard? No problem, just head to Browning’s VoodooGarden channel for all indoor gardening tips.
The number of Australians living in high-rise apartments doubled between 1991 and 2011 and that trend has continued since then. The quarter-acre dream is fast disappearing and larger blocks and family gardens along with it. As more people move from country areas to the city and as land to build homes near the city centre becomes scarce, we’re getting further and further away from nature. It turns out this isn’t great for our health.
The change in urban environments because of development, associated with a rapid increase in chronic disease, is a global phenomenon in developed countries. In the past children grew up running on bare soil and grass, explored backyard farms and gardens, climbed trees and were exposed to a high level of bacteria. And the diversity of the bacteria can change if an individual is exposed to different environmental conditions.
One of these conditions is living in a high-rise apartment far away from land, soil, trees and plants. Being close to nature is linked to positive mental well-being – and people living in urban areas have been shown to have a disadvantage in processing stress. This can be at least partially attributed to increased exposure to air pollution and heat stress, and decrease in exercise and fitness through lack of access to a garden or nearby park.
The less exposure to nature we have, the less diverse the bacteria in our microbiota. The microbiota is the community of bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in our gut and on our skin. We need a diverse exposure for our body to fight inflammation effectively.
Alteration in the human bacterial communities, including the disappearance of ancient microbiotic species, is thought to cause inflammation in the body. These ancient species were known to encourage development of cells that regulate the immune system (T-cells). When our immune system stays on high alert all the time, instead of resting when no threats are present, this causes inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease.
Where plants come in
The bacteria we have are similar to those of plants in that we both carry trillions of good and bad bacteria. The diversity of the microbiota is measured by how many families of bacteria are present. We know the diverse plant microbiome influences plant growth, and humans benefit by eating plant foods. An important research question remains: do we gain another benefit simply by having contact with plants?
Plants also remove volatile compounds from the air including ozone and carbon dioxide. They turn the carbon dioxide into oxygen, meaning air quality is drastically improved. Higher oxygen levels inside a small apartment mean well-being may be improved for the occupants. Viewing plants reduces stress and is pleasing to the human eye.
Nature therapy (shinrin-yoku), first invented in Japan, has proven beneficial for our health by lowering blood pressure and boosting mental health. This is done by simply going for a mindful walk in the forest.
It has also been established that plants confer positive changes in the brain’s electrical activity, muscle tension and heart activity.
Some plants that are beneficial in the home
Peace Lily: if this plant is placed in the hallway it will reduce many toxins such as benzene, ammonia, acetone and ethyl and will prevent toxins from spreading between rooms in the apartment.
Devil’s Ivy (Golden Pothos): this plant can be placed in low light and cool temperatures such as an air-conditioned office or an outdoor garage. It will remove ozone, which is found in car exhaust fumes.
Outdoor plants and soil have an abundance of ecological communities compared to indoor environments, a higher diversity of microbes, and therefore increase the numbers of insects, birds and other fauna. Viewing and being among large parks and green areas has been shown to improve the mental and physical well-being of people living in urban areas.
With backyards becoming increasingly rare, diversity is decreasing in urban areas. In response, the City of Toronto has written into local law that all new buildings must have green roofs that include vegetation, drainage, waterproofing and slope stability. The reasoning for the law was that green roofs provide:
energy savings from better solar reflectivity, evapotranspiration and insulation, green roofs last up to twice as long as regular roofs, and green roofs can beautify and add value to Toronto’s buildings by providing scenic views and recreational areas in dense urban areas.
A similarly bold strategy here would benefit not only the health of our apartment dwellers, but also the environment.
Are you a fan of the Royal Botanic Garden’s flower collection? Well, good news – you can buy them with just a gold coin contribution.
The RBG’s All About Flowers floral display, which is the first of its kind in the garden’s horticultural centre The Calyx, is ending on August 2. To celebrate the run, more than 18,000 plants from the display will be sold for just a gold coin (or $10 for the orchids). Bringing your own basket or bag is recommended.
When it comes to sustainable gardening and farming, going organic is a great start – but why not take another step forward with permaculture?
Milkwood presents Intro to Permaculture, an intensive weekend workshop on permaculture principles and systems that promote low-energy living and regenerative gardening.
The two-day course will provide a comprehensive overview of how to apply pro-active, sustainable design techniques to your habitat, be it a small apartment, a quarter-acre block, or a rural property. The course, taught by Milkwood director and permaculture designer Nick Ritar, also includes a copy of Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture textbook, course notes and coffee and tea.
Tickets start at $441 per person. For more information, visit Milkwood’s website.
August 12-13 | 107 Projects, 107 Redfern Street, Sydney
We know that home gardens can produce edible fruits, vegetables and herbs, but what about edible flowers? Which ones can we eat safely, and how do we prepare them?
There are a wide range of flower varieties that are edible for human. These include, but not limited to: chives, courgette, chrysanthemum, dahlia, dandelion, geranium, hibiscus, mallow, marigold, nasturtium, lavender, lilac, pea, peony, primrose, rose, snapdragon, sunflower, tulip, and violet.
Flowers can be added to a salad, as garnish on desserts, frozen in ice cubes, or even put in the cooking. However, remember to always wash the flowers before preparing them. Also be mindful that for some flowers, you can only eat the petals. Below is a helpful chart from Brittany Watson Jepsen that you can read for reference.