Discover how to help your kids connect with nature in ways you never imagined! This post shares 7 unconventional techniques to help them explore and appreciate the outdoors on a spiritual level.
It was a surprisingly gorgeous day in February. A sunny 50 degree gift of a day hidden in a frosty winter.
As a child, this would have day where my parents would have had to drag my sisters and me, with our dirty feet and stinky hair, inside at the end of the day.
However, my children said they were ‘too tired’ to play outside. They wanted to stay inside and melt into a world of technology.
Frustrated, but not giving in, I plopped their shoes and jackets in front of them and guided them out the front door.
They were overdue for some nature time and clearly we all needed to connect with nature.
Also read about Nature Deficit Disorder here.
Benefits of Connecting with Nature
Simply speaking, connecting with nature and outdoor play fosters children’s emotional, social and physical development and health.
- According to a University of Illinois study, interaction with nature reduces symptoms of ADD in children.
- Many studies, like this one, link outdoor experiences to improved mental health.
- Outdoor play is associated with lower BMI scores in children
- Sunlight exposure improves vitamin D absorbing which can improve a child’s immune system.
When your finds creative ways to touch-base with nature, they will start to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves (and develop spirituality).
7 Ways Kids can Connect with Nature Right Now
In a world that is increasingly focused on technology, urban sprawl and constant connectivity, finding ways to truly connect with nature can be challenging.
From tree hugging to earthing, here are seven unconventional methods to help you explore and appreciate the outdoors.
1) Walk Barefoot Outside
Even before I knew the benefits of barefoot walking, my kids had a natural urge to kick their shoes off the moment they went outside to play.
Grounding, aka Earthing, is the act of walking barefoot on the earth. It is thought that when you walk barefoot on the earth, your body picks up on energy from the earth’s surface.
In fact, an eight-week study showed that participants who practiced daily grounding experienced decreased inflammation, improved sleep and reduced stress levels.
Have your children remove their shoes and socks and feel the grass, dirt, or sand beneath their feet.
Tell them to appreciate the different temperatures of each material, notice if any sensations make them uncomfortable, and observe how certain surfaces cause you to use different muscles when walking.
Take this time as an opportunity to slow down and take in the sights and smells that nature has to offer.
You may also like: How to Project Positive Energy onto Your Kids
2) Start a Nature Journal
Journaling is a powerful technique for reconnecting with nature because it encourages your child to pay attention to all the little details – the color of the leaves, the texture of the ground, and the sound of the birds.
Nature journaling can be done through sketching, writing observations or making simple musings.
Help your kid start a journal and make time for regular visits in nature to track your observations and feelings.
3) Try Moon Gazing
No kid will argue with you when you tell them you are going to delay bedtime to sit outside longer and look at the sky.
Moon gazing, or moon bathing, is an ancient form of meditation where you find a peaceful spot to relax and absorb the light from the moon.
Indian medicine (also known as Ayurvedic which focuses on whole-body healing and balance) claims exposure to moonlight is an effective way to soothe and cool excess heat, anger and imbalances from the body’s system and help diseases such as hypertension, migraines, rashes and other inflammatory conditions.
Regardless of your beliefs, when your child spends quiet time outside under the stars, they will surely connect with nature in a big way.
Stuck inside? Try these INDOOR Nature Activities
4) Go Tree Hugging
Tree hugging may sound silly, but it is actually shown to increases levels of hormone oxytocin (the hormone responsible for emotional bonding and happiness).
Guide your child to pick a tree and observe it for a moment. Ask them to wrap their arms around it, close their eyes and take in five deep breaths.
Ask: What does it smell like? How does it feel? How do YOU feel?
Tree hugging only takes a few minutes and provides a healthy dose of a bonding hormone- why not try it?
Also read: How to Teach Spirituality to Kids (Not Religion)
5) Practice Outdoor Yoga
Yoga is not just for adults, and you don’t have to be an expert to share the benefits with your kids.
Yoga has been shown to:
- Help kids manage anxiety
- Boost self-esteem
- Improve physical strength and flexibility
- Teach kids about mindfulness
When done outside, it combines these benefits with some good old outdoor connection and appreciation.
Check out these simple Garden Yoga Poses at Childhood101.com.
6) Start a Garden
From a young age, my kids have always loved my Italian father-in-laws massive garden. It taught them to try new vegetables and appreciate where real food comes from.
When they got older, they asked to start their own garden. My older son takes time to germinate the seeds and they all take turns watering and picking from the garden.
Whether you plant vegetables, herbs, or flowers, starting a garden is a great way to get your kids to connect with nature and enjoy the benefits of their hard work as they watch the plants grow.
These kits will get you started:
Also check out this awesome nature scavenger hunt.
7) Take a Mindful Break
Mindfulness is the basic ability to be fully present in the moment. Aware of where we are and what we’re doing.
Unfortunately, we can’t always be in a state of mindfulness, and neither can our children. They have responsibilities and distractions, too. Screen addiction, social media, and the hustle and bustle of life get in the way.
I developed the Mindful “BREAK” as an easy-to-remember way of taking a moment for yourself.
Encourage your child to go outside, if possible, and try this:
Read full post here on a Mindful Break.
Final Thoughts on Helping Kids Connect with Nature
I looked outside and I saw my 11 year old son sitting in the middle of our backyard alone. He was staring at something on the ground for a long time. A peculiarly long time.
I snuck up behind him to see what was holding his typically short attention span for an extended period of time.
He told me he was watching a little worm crawl through the grass like it was in a jungle.
I will instantly filled with pride that my son had the ability and opportunity to slow down and connect with nature, and I think these 7 activities helped make that moment possible.
If you enjoyed this, check out these games to play in the woods with kids.
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