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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Outdoor Mindfulness Activities for Kids

By Beth Rush


Sometimes, your kids might seem down in the dumps. While completely normal at times, it can be troubling for parents to see. And while it may be nothing that a bowl of ice cream can’t fix, you might want to consider mindfulness practices for your child to help manage feelings of sadness or stress.


What Are Mindfulness Activities?

Mindfulness activities are projects and ventures that can help both adults and children to feel calm and present. These types of activities can be helpful when experiencing feelings of overwhelm. A mindfulness activity can take many forms, but the unifying goal is for the person to be aware of his or her thoughts and feelings and be in touch with their surroundings.


Do Kids Need to Exercise Mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness is often discussed with respect to adults, helping them to clear out tension related to the stresses of work and life. However, it’s also key to recognize the importance of mindfulness for children.

Award-winning journalist and author Jennifer Breheny Wallace dives into how most young students face a competitive academic landscape, and the impact of that pressure. “Many of these students come from the top 25% of household incomes. Depending on where you live, that’s a household income of roughly $130,000 a year.”

Wallace continues, “In 2019, I wrote an article for The Washington Post about two national policy reports that found these students to be — officially — an at-risk group, meaning they were two- to six-times more likely to suffer from clinical levels of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder than the average American teen.”

“It felt so counterintuitive that kids who are given so many opportunities would be doing less well — in tangible measures of well-being — than middle-class peers. And what is happening to these kids is happening to all kids throughout the country,” Wallace said.

Even if your children aren’t dealing with these particular stressors, it’s key to build healthy coping mechanisms for the future. Mindfulness techniques can help kids gain control over their thoughts when they feel anxious or worried.

 

Outdoor Mindfulness Activities for Kids

Kids can engage in various mindfulness activities indoors, but it can be good to have a change of scenery. The outdoors can activate more of the body’s senses by offering different levels of stimulation. It can also feel freeing to explore the outside world.


Mindful Breathing

Breathing is a core technique when it comes to practicing mindfulness. Some people find that doing it with closed eyes works best, but consider going outside. Let your children take in the breeze. Invite them to observe the foliage, the flowers, and the ground while you encourage them to take deep breaths. 


Cloud Gazing

Find a space outdoors that will give kids a clear view of the sky. Tell them to point out different shapes in the clouds. This exercise can stimulate a child’s spatial awareness and measurement skills. You can also just let them watch each white fluffy cloud pass by. Cloud gazing can be a fun activity for children to forget stress and connect with their thoughts.


Scavenger Hunt

If your child responds to goal-based activities, suggest a scavenger hunt and create a list of items for them to find. Various birds, insects, and flowers can be great items to keep an eye out for. You can also try a color-based hunt, where your child looks for outdoor items that include all the colors of the rainbow.

 

Blowing Bubbles

For a more relaxed activity, consider blowing bubbles with your kids. There’s such an innate joy in seeing them floating around. You can find bubble wands and easy bubble solutions to make at home online, or you can assemble different shapes made out of sticks and strings.


Smelling Flowers

Sometimes, you just need to stop and smell the roses. Appreciating the different colors and smells from various flowers can promote relaxation and appreciation of the world around you. Aside from roses, the scent of lavender and jasmine can also be quite soothing.


Collecting Rocks

There are so many rocks to be found, and each one is unique. It can be a great activity for your child to focus on collecting, inspecting, and categorizing different types. You can also try out other mindfulness activities that utilize the rocks, such as balancing them on top of one another. 


Walking

A quick walk outdoors is a wonderful way to clear your head. Child and teen mindfulness educator Christoper Willard suggests silly walking and balancing acts to make the activity more fun. He also notes that classic mindful walking works just as well. 

“In my own insecurity that the kids will think mindful walking is boring, or complain and laugh about ‘zombie walking,’ I may go too far … Sometimes this simplicity of just knowing we are walking is the best instruction that even the youngest among us can understand and appreciate,” shares Willard.


Practicing Yoga

Yoga is considered one of the ultimate meditative practices that can fortify your physical and mental well-being. Stretches and yoga poses can be helpful and easy if your child is looking for more active mindfulness exercises. 

Lotus pose is great for beginners. Try this traditional yoga pose outdoors on a soft patch of grass with your child by sitting cross-legged, resting the feet on the opposite thighs. You can also encourage them to practice a bit of deep breathing while keeping their form.


Outdoor Reading

If your child is a natural bookworm, bring a blanket and their favorite stories outdoors. It can be great to have a reading session while outside. Encourage them to practice mindfulness and focus on the words on their pages. When they need a break, they can just take in the scenery.


Nature Journaling

Creative kids might enjoy nature journaling. Give your child a notebook and pen so they can write down their thoughts and observations. Let them know they can be as silly or introspective as they want. All that matters is that they pay attention to what’s happening around them and write it down on paper.


Tree Planting

Tree planting is a sustainable mindfulness practice that can help children connect with nature. It also imparts the importance of giving back. Teach kids the therapeutic routine of digging a hole, gently placing a seed, and refilling the space with soil. 


Let the Outside Calm Your Kids

Outdoor mindfulness activities can be incredibly helpful for kids to re-center themselves and deal with stress. Accompany them on their journey and cheer them on as they try out different pursuits — they might just find a new favorite hobby.

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