Mindfulness Outdoor Experiences (MOE) can be enjoyed at any age. Generally the walks have been with adults but I did have a walk in the winter with a 2 year old and twin 9 year olds with their Moms. The Mom of the two year old wasn’t sure the little guy would be warm enough or last too long. She was quite surprise when he walked the 1/2 mile in and out. He hugged several trees and loved the sit-spot.
There were two other times when children joined a MOE. Last year a 9 year old joined the adult walk and it was her first time seeing snow. She and her mother were from South Caroline. She sauntered in silence and enjoyed the 20 minute sit-spot. A couple of weeks ago another 9 year old joined us. He walked quietly, discovered different wonders of nature and made his own mandala.
Recently I had the privilege of guiding four Moms and their little ones – 3 were three years of age and one was 17 months – through the woods at Pine Hollow Arboretum. When working with children the focus changes and there is a little more talking than on an adult experience which is mainly silent.
We started off with some stretching, twirling, reaching to the sky and touching Mother Earth. Then we learned about deer ears and how to do a fox walk. The children started off walking very close to their Moms and not interacting with each other very much.
The little boy walked was not afraid and walked closely next to me chatting about what he was seeing. He loved touching the moss, leaves, pine cones and more. After a while three year old girls overcame their shyness and began to walk next to me. At some point during the walk they started to hold my hand and let me help them in the slippery muddy areas. They shared their fear of snakes. We discussed how important snakes were and that as long as they didn’t come near us we would be fine. Luckily for them we didn’t run into any snakes along the trail. I have met snakes along the trail while exploring Pine Hollow Arboretum in the past.
After a while we decided to be a little creative and they gathered pine cones, acorns, leaves, small pine branches, pine needles, sticks, and some moss – it had to be already lying on the ground – and we tried our hand at creating. Even the little 17 month old helped out.
It wasn’t really an Mandala but they had fun gathering and creating. We took a picture and left this as a gift for anyone traveling that way.
Then we went on to touch the different texture of tree trunks along the trail and the moss covering the fallen trees. Each one of the little ones chose a tree to hug.
They all loved exploring the moss on the logs and we discovered places where the red squirrels had a family feast. It looked like a food trough in the nooks and crannies of the fallen logs. And, sometimes at the bottom of trees we found piles of acorns.
They really enjoyed the adventure and exploring all of the gifts of the forest. We checked out the different sizes, shapes, and textures of the leaves, and height of trees. They smelled the leaves, tree trunks, moss and dirt.
One of the little ones was down on the ground and I asked her what she was doing. She said, “I’m a lizard.” It was obvious wasn’t it. She was having such a great time.
Friends were made during the experience. They held hands, laughed, hugged trees, discovered nature together.
During the walk I showed them this tree with the big hole. I stuck my head inside and looked up as I called out “Anybody home.” Then they all wanted to be held up to check this out and call inside too. We discussed who might be living in the tree and they had some ideas.
Truthfully this was just as much fun for me as it was for them. I am looking forward to my next mindfulness experience with little ones. At the end of the walk we sat at the picnic table and they shared what they liked about the experience. Children are amazing and parents can learn a great deal from their children. We do not need to be childish but being childlike allows us to connect with nature, slow down our thoughts, relax a bit and have fun.
After we left I received a text from one of the Moms sharing that when they arrived at her house her son got out of the car and went over to their tree and hugged it. We are hoping he will become a lifelong tree hugger. The next day I received an email from the ‘lizard’s’ Mom telling me that her daughter was dreaming in the night and called out, “C’mon guys, let’s go.” Her Mom thinks she was dreaming of being out in the woods with the kids.
If you have little ones, get them out in nature and let them have some freedom to explore. Get down on the ground with them to check out the holes in the trees, the smell of the earth, the taste of wild peppermint, cold water on your bare feet, the textures of the tree trunks and leaves. Being in nature lowers your blood pressure, lowers your stress hormones, allows you to breath in fresh air, and receive the benefits of the essence of the forest. Let the little ones run barefoot in the grass and feel the dirt under foot. Let them crawl on the ground like a lizard, roll down the hill, jump in puddles. You will notice they will sleep sounder and you will too.
Organized sports are fine but free play is better if you would like to raise creative, playful, less stressed, happy children. Plus, the sports playing fields are generally heavily sprayed with pesticides and can be stressful for many children. Being out in the natural forested area is a healthier environment. If you are concerned about tics there are many natural deer free sprays. Plus, you can give the children a shower once home to remove any tics before they attach to the skin. There are so many benefits to children and their parents being out in nature. You can share a fun experience, laugh, and learn together in a stress free environment. You can build a loving, caring relationship while connecting to the natural environment. We are not separate from nature, we are nature. So connect and enjoy!
If you would like more information on how to enjoy being in nature with your children or about Mindfulness Outdoor Experiences please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love and Light