Nature is a great place to practice mindfulness with kids.
It offers endless opportunities to learn, explore, enjoy, relax and be present.
When you practice mindfulness in nature, you are in a very supportive place.
Nature provides a comforting space that invites children to be with their senses. It draws their attention to the here and now and helps to reduce stress and worry.
In nature, children are encouraged to be in the moment and enjoy themselves while they learn about the natural world. This awareness can inspire environmentally-conscious behavior and promote a strong connection with the land and their surroundings.
Here are some activities that can help your child experience some of the healing, revitalizing and mindful benefits nature has to offer.
Activities for practicing mindfulness in nature with kids
Practicing mindfulness in nature with kids is a very simple yet rewarding exercise.
Nature provides lots of eco-friendly art materials that can be used with minimal to no ecological footprint. They’re also easy to recycle since many items can simply be returned to where they were originally found.
Natural items that can be readily found and used for art projects include:
These natural elements not only inspire children to express themselves in a creative way, but collecting them is also a mindful practice.
2. Beach combing
Taking children to the beach is a great place to teach them about mindfulness.
The feeling of sand between the toes, the smell-taste-sound-feel of the water, the warmth of sunshine. These are all great to opportunities to explore the senses and connect with the natural world.
Building castles in the sand for example provides a great opportunity to practice releasing attachment and learning to embrace whatever comes in life. Examining the feeling of rocks that have been polished by the waves or the closing your eyes and just listening to the water are simple yet effective ways to practice mindful awareness.
Being near water is also a very relaxing experience and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s also a very natural place to practice meditation because it induces calmness and awareness and also beneficial for healing.
Beaches and the shorelines of lakes, ponds, and rivers are also great because they have a lot of natural beauty and so many things for kids to explore.
3. Garbage pick-up
It certainly doesn’t sound glamorous at first, but taking children out to collect garbage is a good way to help them develop awareness of their responsibility to the environment.
When they can see and feel firsthand how damaging and excessive garbage can be, they’re more likely to become aware of their own consumption and how they use products.
This is a simple exercise that also demonstrates the merit of community, ownership, and how greed and excessive consumerism can negatively impact their community.
4. Build a bird house or insect hotel
Building bird houses teach children a lot about compassion and caring for others.
Creating a safe refuge for animals gives children a chance to express kindness and empathy towards others.
Whether you build the birdhouse (or feeder) from scratch or simply decorate one, expressing care for creatures teaches kids how to open their hearts. Through this process, they learn to relate with the birds and their desire to have a warm, comfortable, and safe place to live.
5. Hiking and nature walks
Going for a walk or hike through nature is a great mindful exercise.
It can be as long or as short as you have time for and makes for a great family activity. Getting kids active outside distances them from the computer and other distracting electronic devices. It also helps to increase physical activity and gets them out into the fresh air.
Be sure to take plenty of breaks to focus on being present. The walking is less about getting somewhere than it is about being aware and tuning into your surroundings.
6. Farm visit
Kids love going to farms.
There is something so fun and exciting about seeing all the animals, beautiful land, and if you’re lucky – tasting delicious foods!
Farms are a great way to help children connect with nature. Here they learn about the work that goes into producing their favorite foods. There is no shortage of sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and things to touch at a farm. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the kids for a tour or volunteer at a farm or nearby community garden.
Another great way to continue this practice is to bring your farm bounty home and to share a mindful meal together.
7. Berry or apple picking
A great way to help children connect with nature is through their bellies!
Taking them outside to pick berries, apples, and other seasonal produce brings them closer to the natural world.
It helps to develop an appreciation for the work that goes into growing their favorite foods and how much we have to thank nature for. It also promotes feelings of gratitude for having fresh delicious goodies accessible at their fingertips.
This activity can be continued at home with the washing of the food and it’s preparation. Perhaps everyone comes together in the kitchen to work together at cutting off stems or baking something yummy.
Practice mindful eating with this lovingly harvested fruit and savor all the smells, tastes, sights, and textures that nature has provided.
Gardening can be a very mindful activity.
Digging in soil, plating, and nurturing plants is a very grounding exercise. It helps to reduce stress and improves your mood.
Another important reason to garden with kids is to encourage healthy eating.
Leading a mindful life means that you treat your body with respect and kindness. And this starts with eating wholesome and nutritious food.
Of course not everyone has their own big garden, especially people who live in the city. If you don’t have a lot of land to work with, start with some easy to grow vegetables like tomatoes or herbs in pots.
You can also collect rainwater with small bottles or a bucket to feed your plants. This is another way to teach children about water conservation, sustainability and also their responsibility to Mother Earth.
And if you’ve ever seen the smile of a child eating a carrot that they’ve grown, you’ll know that gardening also germinates seeds of happiness and self-confidence!
9. Stargazing and moon tracking
Gazing at the stars and tracking the moon are not only exciting nighttime activities for kids, but it also teaches them a lot about life.
Looking up at a sky with its trillions of tiny dots of stars and planets can be a very humbling experience.
Once children begin to grasp the sheer size of the universe and how tiny the Earth is in comparison, they can see themselves from a different point of view.
In comparison to what is out there, we are so very small. And so are most of our so-called problems. This realization helps to put things into perspective and helps them let go.
Being interested in the infinite universe beyond can awaken one’s curiosity. This often inspires an urge to connect with the natural world and become more active in protecting it.
Maybe you’ll be lucky and see a shooting star and can make a wish together!
Camping offers a great opportunity to spend a lot of time outside with your children.
You can take a walk on the beach, go hiking, sit around a campfire at night and really become engaged and connected to nature.
Fun activities like playing the guitar and singing together will create some bonding memories your kids will never forget.
This kind of fun shared between family and loved ones develops a strong sense of belonging, trust, and friendship.
In combination, these feelings will help your child better cope with difficult situations, understand their own emotions, and will ultimately guide them to nurturing their own healthy relationships.
Getting kids outside to explore nature is a great mindful practice.
With a little planing and preparation, you can turn a normal day in your child’s life into a special moment that will be cherished for a long time.
These simple outdoor activities help to lay the foundation for a mindful future while promoting mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Among the many benefits children experience, time spent outdoors builds resilience to stress, helps them understand their emotions, and gives them a sense of place in the world.
There is no better way to teach children about mindfulness and the environment than by taking them outside. And there’s no better way to guide them and to cultivate your own practice than by joining them!
Creating art, looking at the night sky, helping to harvest food are just some examples of how you can bond with your child in nature and practice mindfulness at the same time.
What kinds of activities does your family like to do outside?
All images © The Mindful Panda, 2018.