Klinger’s Korner: Spend Spring Outside
Author: Andy McNiel
Hundreds of studies conducted around the world, reaching more than 290 million people, revealed spending time in nature has significant benefits to physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Whether you live in the city or the country, nature is always accessible; by simply finding green space nearby, planting a garden, or nurturing plants in your home, each member of your family can reap nature's positive effects. As spring settles in and the weather permits, find a way to bring your children outdoors and into nature.
4 Ways to Connect Your Children with Nature this Spring
A picnic is a great way to get outside, and there are plenty of ways to interact with one another and nature along the way. Spend time together planning each part of the adventure, including packing a lunch with simple foods — sandwiches, trail mix, fruits, and other healthy options. Plan where you will go together by looking at green space options nearby. Pack your lunch, and bring your blanket. Take a Frisbee, kickball, or any other favorite outdoor game, and spend time together.
Mindfulness in Nature
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment you are in. We spend much of our time worrying about all that has happened in the past and everything we have yet to do in the future. Though we cannot ignore our current responsibilities and all the things in the past and future that need our attention, mindfulness allows us to take breaks throughout our day to refocus, relax, and destress.
When we combine mindfulness with nature, the benefits increase. Find a tree (or trees), and sketch it out. Neither you nor your children must be great artists for this to work. Simply look at every detail and, in your own way, that feels good to you, sketch what you see. Or, you may simply focus on the details, taking them in and thinking through them in your mind.
You might also pay attention to different types of birds in nature. Typically, they are all around us, yet in our busyness, we do not notice them. Take the time to notice. Zero in and observe their behavior. As you slow down and pay attention to what is happening around you in the moment, you take a break from other stressors in your life and your children’s lives. Enjoy the physical, mental, and emotional benefits.
Walking in Nature
Spend an hour or half a mile walking in nature in the woods or at a park. Walk slowly and absorb your surroundings. You can talk and share during your walk, or you could suggest that everyone be quiet and soak in their surroundings. After the walk, you might find a space to sit in the green space and talk about what you observed as you focused your attention on all that was around you.
Plant a Garden
Finally, consider planting a garden outside your house, condo, or apartment, or potting some plants inside your home. You can combine this with a memorial of your person to honor their life and service. In whatever way you choose to do this, include your kids in the processes of picking out the plants, preparing the soil, and doing the planting. Make it a family effort to care for the plants or garden as you watch growth happen over time.
Nature is a powerful medicine that almost always works. It most often costs nothing and has no negative side effects. As spring permits where you live, find ways to get outside with your family. You will be glad you did, and the positive physical, mental, and emotional impact this will have on each of you will be all the reward you need.
Andy McNiel, MA, is the Senior Advisor, TAPS Youth Programs.