The great outdoors: promoting healthy minds in children

Posted by iChild, July 31, 2019 9:33 PM

By Megan Johnstone, copywriter at Muddy Puddles

Getting fresh air in through the lungs can make a world of difference to people’s sense of mental wellbeing. Developing a good relationship with the great outdoors is important for people of all ages, but beginning this at a young age can prove crucial in maintaining good mental health in later years.

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Resilience abilities

Bereavement is a difficult circumstance for people at any age, but for children it can be an especially testing time and parents might look for guidance when it comes to explaining the event. The characteristics of nature can be useful tools for explaining life cycles, discussing how new growth happens and how natural elements assist. These practical examples can alleviate the challenges involved in guiding a child through loss, and help them develop a healthy understanding of life.

Nature can provide relief from the challenges of grief through its abundance of open spaces where children can express themselves freely. Winston’s Wish offers nature walks, where families can take some time away from their normal routines and spend time walking and talking through their feelings, or they can simply embrace the tranquility of nature while grieving.

Children tend to take longer to accept and fully understand grief, whereas it can seem like a much more definitive end for adults dealing with a loss. Winston’s Wish offers nature walks that can provide a safe, open environment in which young people can discuss their feelings in a calm setting. This allows them to process their emotions and develop strong coping mechanisms which will guide them through life.

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The importance of adventure

Not all learning happens in the classroom, and exploring nature can be a brilliant way for kids to develop a better understanding of their surroundings. By allowing children to explore the outdoors, they can become more aware of new habitats and the life which thrives there. Their understanding of nature is enhanced in this way, encountering a whole host of new sources of imagination and creativity in doing so. Children can build dens and enact their favourite stories outdoors — they might even find a hungry caterpillar along the way! Even on a rainy day, you could get your kids wellies out of the cupboard and encourage them to go on an outdoor adventure — a lot of fun can be had while jumping through puddles!

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Cultivating strong relationship

A natural space can help nurture human relationships, and as children grow up they will need to be able to do this for a variety of reasons. Many people experience a stronger sense of relief when they walk while discussing an issue that they’re experiencing, as it can feel like a more suitable environment to truly clear their thoughts. In children, listening and being listened to promotes a healthy sense of self-esteem, and connecting with other youngsters provides the base for solid future connections.

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The natural uplift

Any form of exercise has the power to release lots of feel-good endorphins into the body. It doesn’t have to be strenuous and even on a rainy day, you should take the opportunity to dig out your child’s waterproof coat and take a walk. Making a conscious effort to take some time to go for a walk can help to keep both our mind and body feeling happy and healthy, and it is one of the only ‘free’ ways to feel excellent!

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Learning to move at their own pace

Children love to go on adventures and push their limits, and in an outdoor space they are able to explore freely (safely and supervised of course!), which is valuable for teaching them skills in pace. In doing so, character development happens, and they learn to enjoy certain activities. Pace is also an important aspect of grief, a feeling for which there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, so children can determine what works best for them and their own unique feelings in these difficult scenarios.

The general sense of wellbeing that we all have can be greatly enhanced by spending some time outdoors, but encouraging our children to do the same from a young age can help to promote good, healthy habits as they progress through life. Feeling calm, inspired and safe is all possible in nature, and children should be encouraged to spend time immersed in natural surroundings from an early age to promote positivity even in the most challenging of times.

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By Megan Johnstone, copywriter at Muddy Puddles

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