Practicing mindfulness can help both children and adults with emotional self-regulation and cognitive focus. There are many different, yet simple ways to practice mindfulness individually and with your family.
One of the ways I enjoy sharing the practice of mindfulness with my children is by spending times moving, exploring and observing the outdoors — taking a mindful walk.
Mindful Walking is a form of walking meditation that can help children develop body awareness and that can help us all stay grounded in the present moment. This practice of mindfulness is a great way to set intention to spend meaningful, undistracted time outdoors with the ones that you love.
Research shows that the daily practice of mindful walking can even improve sleep quality and relationship skills as well as enhance concentration, reduce stress and can provide a deeper connection to spirit. Mindfulness, or simply paying attention, can help us all to calm down and make better decisions. Practicing mindfulness as a family outdoors together has added benefits, as spending time in nature has been proven to be beneficial to your body, mind and soul.
Go on a mindful walk with your children by actively engaging all of your five senses:
- Sight – Notice, observe and pay attention to the subtle changes that nature illustrates with each passing day. Children love looking for interesting rocks, flowers, shells and leaves. Get down at your child’s level and delight in the beauty and wonder of our natural surroundings.
- Touch – With your child, focus on the sensation of your feet on the ground while your are walking. Touch natural objects and have your child describe how they feel. Encourage your child to notice the sensation on their skin when you are walking from the sunlight to the shade.
- Hearing – Listen to sounds like: wind moving through the trees, bird songs and the crunch of the fall leaves under your feet. Notice sounds of nature and contrast them to sounds from sounds from people, cars and machinery. You might be surprised at what sounds you really can hear when you really pay attention!
- Smell – Shift your attention to notice the smells that surround you on your mindful walk. This could be composting leaves or pine needles or other smells emanating from the earth. You and your child may catch the smell of a neighbors grill or a nearby restaurant. Make a point to stimulate this sense and bring a new sense of awareness to body and mind.
- Taste – Although taste usually is not a large part of a mindful walk, you may may have opportunity to taste a gift from a fruit tree, a ripe berry or even get a taste of the nectar from a sweet clover on your mindful walk.
Nature Walk Activities
Consider these ideas to add some fun to a mindful family walk outdoors:
- Nature “I Spy” On your walk take turns on this classic find it guessing game.
- Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt Go forward with intention to find artifacts from nature.
- Bring Your Camera – Capture images from your nature walk. I have found when I reflect back on these images it fills me with a sense of gratitude and relaxation.
- Make a Nature Alphabet Photo Collage. It is fun to find the letters of the alphabet formed naturally outdoors. ABC’s Naturally: A Child’s Guide to the Alphabet Through Nature is a fun and inspirational resource. With mindful observation you may be able to find all of the letters in your child’s name or, over time, the whole alphabet. Take snapshots and use sites, such as, www.picmonkey.com to create a photocollage of your findings.
- Great Read-Aloud: The Listening Walk by Paul Showers
- Delve Deeper into Phenological Observations with your Children. Phenology is the study of changes in plants and animals in response to climate and seasonal changes. The USA National Phenology Network hosts a wonderful educational project called the Nature’s Notebook. The Nature’s Notebook is a national, online program where amateur and professional naturalists regularly record observations of plants and animals to generate long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making. On the site there are links to a phenology activity book for children and other curriculum and activities that can help you to develop enriching educational experiences encouraging seasonal mindful observations.