Outdoors is the ultimate play environment for children, not only is it a sensory experience, but it also offers space and freedom. It is great for physical development as well as offering children the opportunity to interact with and learn about the world around them. Being outside also encourages and supports the development of nature connectednes.
As a species, humans have become so disconnected from the natural world and so caught up in the material, it has caused us, and nature, to become out of balance and unwell. People spend billions of pounds every year in the pursuit of happiness and well-being - searching for that missing piece of themselves, when in reality its available day and night, and it’s totally free.
Mandalas are so simple to make and so helpful in terms of calming the nervous system and engaging with nature. Simply collect some natural materials that are around you, maybe petals, pebbles, flowers, shells, leaves etc. (Maybe get some longer sticks if you want to divide your mandala into equal sections.)
If you are making these with children, be clear at the beginning that what you are creating is a temporary picture, you won’t be able to take it home with you. This is as much an exercise in letting go, as it is in creating something beautiful. You can of course photograph your creations and keep the images.
Find a flat surface, out of the wind, and create your very own nature mandala. Use the colours and shapes of your objects to make patterns, breathe and take your time, this is not a race, you cannot make a mistake and nothing you do here is permanent.
It can be nice to make one of these in the same place each season to gain a really good understanding of the environment and what is there.
NOTE: Please be aware of any poisonous plants in the area before you start. I wouldn’t recommend picking anything you are unsure of and wash hands afterwards.
Mindfulness in nature
Being still in nature is absolutely a wonderful thing, and as an adult you might crave time to just sit and take in the natural world, whilst slowly breathing in the fresh air. Some children may benefit from this too, but others feel the need to move their bodies and be active in nature.
If this is the case, then a mindful walk in nature might be exactly what is required. Take them on a walk in nature, and as you go along ask them to notice these things one at a time.
Their breath – how are they breathing? Can they feel the air moving in and out of their chest and their tummy? Take some time to notice.
Now, can they feel the ground beneath their feet as they walk?
What can they hear as they walk? Birds? Crickets? The wind and rain?
Stop for a minute and look around, what do you see? Maybe play a game like “I spy” or maybe look for things of certain colours. Can they see anything red?
Walk some more, feeling the earth beneath the feet. Notice the smells – ask what can you smell and what can you taste? If you are by the sea, maybe you can taste the salty air on your tongue? (They don’t need to physically taste anything, there might just be a taste they can sense.)
Finally, take some time to focus on the breath once more. Ask them to feel what it’s like to be in their body in this moment. How are they feeling?
If they would like to, maybe take some time to sit and draw something from nature, or maybe have a picnic!
Pine cone bees
We spent a lovely afternoon making these pine cone bees, whilst sat in the garden.
You will need:
Some pine cones, some yellow wool, some leaves or petals to make wings, paper and scissors if you would rather make paper wings, glue and cotton to hang the bees up.
Wrap the wool around the pine cone to make stripes.
Glue on some wings. (We used a glue gun, but PVA would work if you are more patient than us!)
Tie cotton around the middle and hang your bees up inside or outside. That's it - it's so simple.
For even more outdoor activity ideas you can visit Twinkl who have featured this page in their blog post 50+ outdoor Activities for Families (at home edition). Looking for places to visit? Twinkl have a handy resource that might inspire you!