5 Ways To Be Mindful in Nature with Children
Chances are you’ve heard about mindfulness – it’s become such a buzzword in recent years. Based on Buddhist practices, it’s a scientifically-backed approach that helps with regulating emotions, promoting kindness and reducing stress.
But what is it all about? It’s paying attention to the present moment, without judging. Rather than spending time in our heads planning what to do next, or mulling over what’s happened, it’s about noticing what’s going on in our bodies and minds right now.
Young children tend to be natural experts at it: we’ve probably all experienced the frustration of trying to convince a toddler it’s time to go when they are fascinated by something on the street or engrossed in play. Children can also be great at letting go and moving on after being upset, rather than churning things over in their heads as adults do.
Even so, establishing simple mindfulness practices with children can be hugely helpful. Mindfulness can provide them with the tools to notice and deal with difficult emotions without being overwhelmed by them. And as children grow, it can help with anxiety, concentration and focus.
Nature offers a perfect base to practice mindfulness. These simple techniques don’t need to take long but practiced everyday (or as often as you can manage), they can bring a renewed sense of calm and wonder to both adults and children.
A noticing walk
You don’t need to call it mindfulness, but try having a noticing walk, where everyone is silent for one minute and focuses their attention on observing what’s around them while they walk. We are bombarded with stimuli outside, so much gets missed in everyday walking – litter, dandelions, blades of grass.
What can you hear?
The outdoors is a great place to practice noticing sounds. Ask children to stand still and count how many sounds they can hear: their own heartbeats, traffic, birdsong, other people’s voices, rustling of leaves in the trees. It’s amazing how many sounds you can collect!
Focus on smells
Flowers and herbs provide a wonderful opportunity for taking a moment to focus on just one thing. Invite children to close their eyes and inhale deeply over a sprig of rosemary, some mint or a rose. Ask them to describe what the smell is like or how it makes them feel.
Watch the clouds
The shape and movement of clouds changes all the time, so they are great for understanding the concept of ‘this too will pass’ without having a big philosophical discussion! Lie back and invite children to share what they notice in the sky. Maybe they’ll talk about what the clouds look like, which way they are moving, whether it’s sunny, any birds they can see.
Walk like an animal
Invite children to move like a cat. Notice how cats move lightly and deliberately, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, alert to what’s around them. Cats can arch their backs, swish their tails, and stretch out. All of this is great for moving consciously and focussing on what your body is doing. You could play with moving like other animals too: lions, deer, hedgehogs!
We hope you find some fun and peaceful ways to bring mindfulness to your outdoors adventures! Happy noticing!