Plants in Children’s Art
This was originally published on Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.
For the last post in my series of plants in the arts, we’re going to look at the importance of plants in children’s art. The rest of the series included various arts starting with Plants in Poetry, then looking at visual arts with Plants in Paintings:: Vincent van Gogh and Plants in Design.
I have a wonderful little friend in Finland who is 8 years old and quite a magnificent artist. Her name is Mia and she loves nature. Neither of her parents are nature geeks, but they do greatly encourage her interests. When I visited them a few years ago we bonded because I am a nature geek. Mia loves to spend time outside observing wildlife and rescuing worms from sidewalks after the rain. She also loves to draw and make art and spends incredible amounts of time and energy creating her art. Since I have known her she has progressed from drawings to 3-d art and most recently silhouettes cut out of paper. I’ve been lucky enough to receive a lot of her art over the last few years, all of which are amazing. Recently she even put together a 24-page bird book for me and it’s so good I could identify the birds from her drawings.
Most children like to draw and it’s an important aspect of development. It’s also important for many nature-related reasons. Drawing nature introduces kids to biodiversity by recognizing there are many different types of things, for example while Mia may not realize it, she’s recognizing differences in plants, that there are shrubs, flowers and trees and that they grow differently. That the world is made up of different types of plants and animals is an important concept. Secondly, many of Mia’s drawings connect plants and animals, she often draws birds in trees, nests on branches, birds among the grasses or swimming in the water. By doing this she is recognizing that certain animals need certain plants and habitats for their lifecycle needs. She sees that bird nests in trees play an important role in producing new birds.
She also learns basic botany by drawing plants, by seeing that the leaves are connected to the branches, which are connected to the trunk which goes into the ground, and even the way flowers are structured with petals, stems and leaves. By understanding basic botany, she will also start to understand where food for humans as well as wildlife comes from by recognizing fruit and seeds develop from the flowers which grow on these plants.
Kids who draw from nature are going to get a better understanding of ecology, learning about different habitats and knowing that grasses belong in wetlands and trees in forests. They can develop a larger idea of the world by getting a sense of place by knowing what types of plants they recognize where they live and knowing that going somewhere different, for example to the southwest where cactus and succulents are common, they will see plants very different from what they regularly see. In fact Mia’s drawing at the top is of a Finnish wood with the mushrooms that she finds there along with the lingonberries. At the same time as recognizing that sense of place, they can recognize how connected the world is by seeing the similarities.
Lastly, Mia is developing an appreciation of nature and learning to see the beauty in not only the plants and wildlife, but ecological processes as well. This appreciation and respect of nature is what we need to care enough to protect and care for, and it may never be so important as for her generation.
Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.