Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fun & Healthy Summer Activity: Nature Walk With Kids

When you’re looking for something to do with your children this summer, consider taking a nature walk with them.  Studies have shown nature walks improve your child’s emotional well being.  Let’s take a look at how nature walks benefit your child and how to take a nature walk with your children.

Nature Walks Help Children Concentrate

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(Photo credit: A Chilling Soul)
Take a walk outside in nature and you’ll notice a few things. You’ll notice you almost immediately feel calmer and more relaxed.  You’ll notice your mind may stop jumping from thought to thought.  Instead, of thinking about that project that’s due or that bill you have to pay, you’ll notice the rabbit sitting in the grass or the strange bird chirping in the tree.  You’ll notice the colors of the leaves on the trees and feel the sunshine on your shoulders.  In short, your mind clears and you begin to focus on the present moment. 

The same thing happens for children.  If your children are older then chances are they’re living extraordinarily busy lives.  Nature walks will help them concentrate and focus on the present. In fact studies have shown that nature walks for children with attention deficit issues were just as effective if not more so than medication to improve their concentration - and medication should only be a very last resort - especially when it comes to kids, with young and growing brains!

Nature Walks Build Confidence

Nature walks tend to generate curiosity and a sense of exploration in children.  They wonder what that funny orange moss was or why the snake was lying on that rock in the sun. This sense of wonder and curiosity helps them feel a part of something bigger than themselves.  It’s almost magical to watch children come out of their shells on a nature walk.  Their shoulders straighten, their eyes light up and confidence and curiosity beam from them. 

Nature Walks Boost Positive Emotions

Many forms of therapy use nature to treat depression, trauma, and to boost mood.  This is because nature is a proven method to boost mood and reduce aggression in children.  Scientists haven’t pinpointed the exact reasons why this occurs.  Some theorize that sunlight has a chemical effect on mood.  We do know that people suffer from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, which occurs during the long months of winter when people don’t receive enough sunlight. 

(Photo credit: erichaynes)
Other’s have studied the effects of greenery on children and have found that children with more nature in their schools, more greenery, get better grades, have fewer behavior problems, and generally perform better in school.  

If you’re new to nature walks, start small and local. Choose trails or parks nearby and let your family gradually build up to longer walks. Get your children interested by pointing out interesting features and encourage them to show you what interests them. 

Many physicians and counselors actually prescribe “nature walk therapy” for their patients who are suffering from stress and anxiety issues, who have high blood pressure, depression or other mood related concerns or who need to improve their attention span.

In addition to helping children focus, giving them more self-confidence and boosting their mood, taking a nature walk with your children helps foster the bond between you and your children.  It creates fond memories, lets your child know that you enjoy quiet time with them in nature and gives them an overall appreciation for life.

Summer is a great time to get out in nature -  both for yourself and your kids - take advantage of the summer months, and reap the health benefits for your family!

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