A little boy on a walk. Taking a healing nature walk is a great way to help your child relax and recharge.

When a child isn’t feeling great, the first thing we think to tell them to do is to go plop on the couch or head to their bed for a rest. While rest is for sure appropriate in many circumstances, healing nature walks and a little fresh air can be helpful. Research has shown that spending time in nature has numerous benefits for children’s physical and mental health.

Today, I’m going to delve into the practical aspects of taking a healing nature walk with your child, including preparation, and mindfulness techniques. By using a nature walk as an intervention to comfort our kids, we can help our children develop a deeper connection with nature and provide comfort in a unique way.

Benefits of taking healing nature walks

There lots of benefits that come with taking the time to experience nature with your kids, here are a few of them:

  1. Physical health benefits:
    • Improved cardiovascular fitness
    • Increased production of vitamin D through exposure to sunlight
    • Boosted immune system, reducing the risk of certain illnesses.
  2. Mental and emotional benefits:
    • Reduced stress and anxiety levels through the calming effect of nature.
    • Elevated mood and increased feelings of happiness.
    • Improved concentration, attention span, and cognitive function, benefiting children with attention disorders.
  3. Connection to the natural world:
    • Developing an appreciation for the beauty and wonders of the environment.
    • Fostering curiosity about ecosystems, learning about plants, animals, and thier interconnectedness.
    • Cultivating a sense of environmental stewardship and responsibility for the natural world.

Hospitals have recognized the benefits of nature and it’s relation to healing. The hospital where I worked had several areas where patients and their families could walk or simply sit in an outdoor area. These healing spaces provided patients a chance to get away from their small hospital rooms and out into the fresh air.

Finding what works for your child

When planning a nature walk, consider your child’s needs and what you think they will tolerate. Here are some tips:

Choose the right location

A mom and son out on a walk

Parks, gardens, or natural trails:

When selecting a location for a healing nature walk with your child, consider the benefits of different natural environments. Parks offer open spaces and often have designated walking trails or paths.

Gardens offer a more controlled and curated natural setting. Natural trails provide a sense of adventure and allow for a deeper immersion in nature. If your child is struggling with big feelings, a nature trail might be a good choice.

If your child has had a sick stomach, a little walk in your backyard or down the street can be comforting.

Consider safety and accessibility:

Prioritize safety and accessibility when choosing a location for your healing nature walk. Make sure you are not pushing your child too hard especially if they have had a recent injury or illness. If your child has an illness that could spread to others, its best to stay at home.

Other considerations

Start with shorter walks:

Younger children may have limited endurance, so it’s important to adjust the length of your walk accordingly. Begin with shorter walks, gradually increasing the distance and duration as your child builds stamina and becomes more comfortable. Pay attention to their energy levels and signs of fatigue during the walk. Remember, the goal is to create an enjoyable experience, not to wear them out!

Think about the time of day and weather conditions:

The timing of your healing nature walk can significantly impact the experience. Choose a time of day when the weather is comfortable and pleasant. Mornings or late afternoons are often ideal, as they provide cooler temperatures and softer lighting. For example, taking a child with a headache out into the afternoon sun would be counterproductive!

Make it a mindful opportunity

Start by discussing the concept of mindfulness with your child

Mindfulness can enhance children’s overall well-being and bring them a sense of calm and peace. Remember that mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, and paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. Practicing mindfulness in nature allows children to engage their senses, reduce distractions, and experience a deeper connection with the natural world.

A young girl take the time to smell a flower.

How to help your child be mindful

Encourage your child to use their senses to fully experience the beauty and wonders of nature during the walk. Here are some examples of how to engage their senses:

  • Sight: Encourage your child to observe the colors, shapes, and movements around them. Help them to notice the intricate details of flowers, the swaying of trees, or the flight of birds.
  • Hearing: Encourage your child to listen attentively to the sounds of nature. Point out the rustling of leaves, chirping of birds, or the sound of a babbling brook. Teach them to focus on one sound at a time and appreciate the symphony of nature.
  • Smell: Encourage your child to take deep breaths and notice the various scents in the air. Help them identify the fragrance of flowers, the earthy scent of the forest, or the freshness after rain. Encourage them to close their eyes and let the scents transport them to a peaceful state.
  • Touch: Encourage your child to explore different textures in nature. Let them feel the rough bark of a tree, the softness of moss, or the smoothness of stones. Help them touch leaves, petals, or grass, and notice the sensations on their fingertips.
  • Taste: Just eating outdoors or having a picnic can be fun for kids. Ask your child if things taste differently when they are outside. Walk around a farmers market and pick out fresh produce together.

Final Thoughts

When you are looking for a way to comfort your child, sometimes it helps to think outside of your house! Taking a nature walk doesn’t mean you have to go tromping through the woods. Even just a small walk in your yard or down the street can be beneficial. Using mindful techniques while you walk with your child is a great way to help them relax and become more in tune with their surroundings. Next time you’ve got a kid that needs comforting, look to the outdoors for some assistance!

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