In honor of Earth month, expert contributor Giselle Baumet discusses the many health and wellness benefits of nature for children and shares some activities you can do with your little one to help them feel appreciation for and connection with nature.
For a moment, gently shut your eyes and recall how you felt the last time you were in nature.
Feels good, doesn’t it? There’s something magical about a mesmerizing sunset, panoramic views, and stunning beaches that make us feel connected to the Earth. And all of us, at one point or another, have experienced a feeling of ease when we noticed birds calling, bees buzzing, rivers flowing tirelessly, or any other scene that brought beauty to our eyes.
John Burroughs, an American naturalist, rightly said that we go into nature to be soothed and healed and have our senses put in order. Everything is perfect in Mother Nature. You can find crooked and contorted trees bent in weird ways, but they are still beautiful. The famous proverb rightly mentioned that we do not inherit nature from our forefathers, but borrow it from our children.
However, as technology has advanced (something we appreciate for its many benefits), we as a society have distanced ourselves from nature. And many of today’s children have yet to fully experience the enormous benefits that nature can bestow on them.
Though nature is all around us, many children are increasingly feeling detached from it due to the extensive pressures of school and extracurricular life.
Dramatic landscapes can fill the hearts, fire up a child’s imagination, and put life into perspective. The experiences of nature can give them a boost too. It’s like having a free Natural Health Service option that everybody, including children, can be a part of.
The rise of technology may have distanced the current generation superficially from nature, but it has not changed our human need for nature.
Undoubtedly, Earth is a giving planet. It continues to primarily provide everything that humans need to survive and thrive, like food, water, medicine, materials for shelter, and even natural cycles such as climate and our nutrients.
And the Earth is also a source of wellness and health.
Child’s disconnection from the environment
The disassociation and deprivation of nature is in large part due to long hours spent indoors and on screens. The prolonged screen hours give rise to depression, obesity, loss of empathy, lack of altruism, and isolation. Too much exposure to screens has serious consequences, including behavioral problems, violent tendencies, poor academic performance, and dampened creativity.
The disassociation from nature has significantly impacted childrens’ wellness. The fact remains that nature can boost their healthy development and support their physical and mental health. In addition, nature can instill abilities to face challenges as they grow. And both children and their parents can benefit greatly from being in nature.
Importance of Nature in Child Development
Daily contact with nature is associated with significant advantages. For example, it is linked to better health, less stress, better mood, and reduced obesity.
Nature has an abundance of everything. Exploring nature, its colors, sounds, seasons, open spaces, and water sources can drive children to better health, a positive mood, and reduced stress.
Here are just some of the benefits of nature on a child’s health.
Health Benefits of Nature
Nature is a model of wellness for a child. Therefore, it is essential to teach children to appreciate and care for the planet—something we can do by bringing children to nature regularly.
Spending time outdoors in a natural environment ensures the physical and mental wellness of the child. Scientific studies have shown that by being in nature, a child can manage their stress and mental health. In addition, nature helps to improve concentration, vision, and creativity.
Nature is a child’s natural playground that aids a child in developing a positive outlook. Building an outdoor schedule for a child will provide physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits.
Exposure to natural settings is beneficial for a child’s health and wellness, particularly their mind, body, and spirit wellness. Some of the benefits that natural surroundings offer a child are :
- Outdoor time improves sleep.
- It builds confidence and gives a child the power to control his actions.
- Being in nature promotes creativity and imagination. Kids get the freedom to interact meaningfully with their surroundings.
- Nature teaches responsibility. For example, by entrusting children to take care of plants and flowers, they learn how important it is to water a plant as they come to know the consequences of not completing their task.
- It increases movement, which helps with development and overall health.
- It provides a space for children to think and contemplate.
- It reduces stress and fatigue.
With all of these benefits, you might wonder how you can increase nature exposure for your child. What activities can you do, in addition to going to parks? Let’s discuss these, as there are many that you can do with your child.
Activities in Nature that Benefit Children
Children can perform endless activities and give themselves space to be free. These nature mindfulness activities can include meditation, breathing, observing nature and the panoramic landscapes, and watching clouds moving across the blue background.
Activities that a child can undertake in nature for their mental and physical well-being include:
Practicing mindfulness in nature is simple and rewarding for kids. It provides innumerable, readily available art objects with which kids can play. These natural, available art objects include:
- wooden pieces
Children can express themselves through these natural elements in a creative way. Playing with these objects is also a mindfulness exercise.
Of course, please consider that taking objects in some spaces of nature is not acceptable, so choose areas where your child can do so.
Building castles in the sand at the beach, the feeling of the sand between toes, and the sound of the advancing waves are great opportunities for children to connect with nature. Moreover, performing pro-environmental activities makes children feel energized and reminds them that they are making a positive impact, however small it may be.
These mindfulness activities teach them to embrace whatever comes in life. Examining the rocks, listening to the water, and observing the natural beauty of the beaches are also effective ways to practice awareness. It helps calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety-the most crucial components of children’s well-being, development, and growth.
Keeping our Earth clean is part of our stewardship as inhabitants of the planet. In addition, collecting debris and garbage in nature spaces develops awareness in children and makes them aware of their responsibility to the environment.
By observing how damaging garbage can be to our planet, children are likely to become aware of their belongings and their effect on nature.
The act of cleaning up nature can teach children how excessive consumerism can negatively impact nature.
Build a Birdhouse
Compassion is an essential ingredient in developing strong self-esteem, the ladder to success. Encouraging children to build birdhouses helps them develop the virtue of compassion and caring for others. By building birdhouses, they can express empathy and kindness towards others.
Birdhouse building helps children express care. This activity teaches them to relate to the desires of birds, and therefore other animals in nature. Building a birdhouse can seem like an ordinary activity, but it teaches mindfulness, while also encouraging the ability to care for others around them.
Hiking or walking through nature is an energizing exercise for children. It provides both fun and an opportunity to socialize.
It also enhances the physical ability of children. Nature walking or hiking is less about getting somewhere and more about being aware of their surroundings. It builds stamina, endurance, and physical strength.
Most children love animals. They love going to farms and enjoy playing with and seeing animals. And visiting farms is full of fun and excitement for kids.
Farms connect children with nature. They get a chance to see how different vegetables and fruits grow. The abundance of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds make them forget the academic pressure and urge to perform and instead, simply connect and be within nature.
Bringing home a bounty of produce from the farm and sharing it with family members makes an excellent meal together. Nature’s produce is always a big bonus for growing children.
The satisfaction derived through happy bellies enjoying fresh fruits is a great way to help children connect with nature. Taking kids outside to pick different seasonal produce helps them develop a strong love of the natural world. It creates in them an appreciation for the work done to grow their favorite foods. It brings them closer to nature and promotes feelings of gratitude.
Gardening is a great hobby to do with children. It not only encourages healthy eating, but also reduces stress and improves mood. In addition, gardening is an engaging activity for children. Digging in soil and nurturing plants is a grounding exercise and a great way to teach children to love homesteading.
Collecting rainwater to feed plants and taking care of the plants teaches children the importance of water conservation and sustainability. Children also learn about their responsibility to Mother Earth. When a child eats the produce of their garden, it germinates the seeds of self-confidence and happiness in their lives.
Camping is a great activity that offers an excellent opportunity for kids to spend time outside and connect with nature. In addition, it refreshes the mood, relieves anxiety, and helps develop camaraderie with friends.
Going for a relaxing walk on the river, sitting around a campfire at night, playing musical instruments, and singing with friends creates a strong bond with friends and nature. It also develops a strong sense of belonging and trust. These attributes help kids cope with high -pressure situations and guide them to nurture strong relationships.
Takeaway of the Benefits and Activities of Being in Nature for Children
Bringing children outside to explore nature is a great way to increase their wellness and health. It will help them explore and observe nature and appreciate its beauty and abundance.
Involvement with nature can turn a child’s day into a special moment. It lays a strong foundation and promotes mental, physical, and spiritual health. In addition, the time spent in nature will build resilience in the face of stress and give them a sense of belonging in the world.
Giselle Baumet is an herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at granolababies.com.