It is that time of year again when the leaves are starting to change, and back-to-school energy is still in the air! However, it will not be long before academic demands build up and school-related stress increases. Caregivers can support their child’s mental health by encouraging regular self-care activities. This post highlights self-care activities in the great outdoors, as research has shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress and improve mood. So, here are a few family-friendly self-care activities you could try with your kids this fall.
- Hike a local trail: Try pausing occasionally to notice if your thoughts are wandering (this is natural!) and then redirect your attention to things you notice in your surroundings. Find accessible trails in the Waterloo region here.
- Relax or play in a local park: Explore accessible playgrounds in the Waterloo Region/Guelph/Wellington areas Accessible Playgrounds_Waterloo_Wellington_2019.pdf (kidsability.ca). From June to October, you can visit animals for free at Eby Farmstead in Waterloo Park.
- Create an outdoor scavenger hunt: Make a list of items to find outside (e.g., ant, orange leaf, clover, feather, pinecone, bird, a spider web, acorn, something yellow, etc.). Tip: Google search “outdoor scavenger hunt for kids” for free printouts!
- Make a craft and spend time outsidecollecting natural supplies: For fall craft ideas with leaves try visiting: 17 Easy Crafts To Make With Leaves (buzzfeed.com)
- Use your artistic skills and create a sketch of something in nature or a landscape: Bring a notepad and pencil on your outdoor adventure to sketch something in nature that catches your eye or take a picture and create a sketch at home.
- Play a game outside: Out of ideas? Try playing bocce ball with pine cones or play "I Spy" Outdoor Edition.
- Engage in an outdoor meditation: Try to pay attention to the sights and sounds within the environment.
- Try yoga outdoors: Practice a tree pose next to an actual tree!
- Visit a pumpkin patch or go apple-picking
- Explore a local outdoor market
- Visit the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory: Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
- Borrow a nature kit at the Waterloo Public Library and go on an outdoor adventure: Find where to borrow a nature kit here.
- Check out organizations in your community that offer nature programs: Waterloo Region Nature Kids (WRN Kids) has fun outdoor programs that run all year. WPN Kids website notes that there is a fee for services, but their website also mentions sponsorships are available.
- Check out some outdoor recreational programs that are offered through your city: The city of Waterloo offers financial support and support for individuals with disabilities to access city-run programs like public swims, public skates, and golf. Explore the programs here.
- Check out events and programs at the Guelph Enabling Garden (GEG): Designed for everyone, but also with specific considerations for individuals with different physical and cognitive abilities: The Guelph Enabling Garden | Plant a dream and watch miracles grow
Teaching children about outdoor etiquette
Lastly, as you head into the great outdoors, we have a responsibility to be respectful and care for nature. Learning how to have a respectful relationship with nature is an important skill we can help children develop. Spending time with children outdoors is a great place to engage in these conversations.
Tips to teach children about outdoor etiquette:
- Stay on designated trails and respect area closures and restrictions
- Give wildlife space and do not feed the wildlife
- If you come across an animal habitat - look with your eyes and not your hands
- Leave it as you found it or better
- Do not litter
Remember, we are all unique and what feels restorative can differ from individual to individual. While these are ideas for self-care, it is important to find what works best for you and your child. If your child needs further support, Lutherwood’s Front Door is here to help.
Bratman, G. N., Anderson, C. B., Berman, M. G., Cochran, B., De Vries, S., Flanders, J., ... & Daily, G. C. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Science advances, 5(7), eaax0903.
Schertz, K. E., & Berman, M. G. (2019). Understanding nature and its cognitive benefits. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28(5), 496-502.
Schilhab, T. S., Stevenson, M. P., & Bentsen, P. (2018). Contrasting screen-time and green-time: A case for using smart technology and nature to optimize learning processes. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 773.
White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., ... & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-11.
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