It’s mental health week.
In the UK, anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 5-19% of all children and adolescents.
While a clinical diagnosis and therapy can be helpful in combating anxiety in children, there are many steps you can take as a parent, teacher or carer, before or alongside seeking professional help.
In particular, nature activities can play an important role in anxiety management – helping children feel calmer and more able to talk about what’s on their mind.
Here’s 5 of our favourite nature activities to help kids feel less anxious.
The Japanese inspired practice of ‘forest bathing’ has been shown to reduce stress, improve concentration span and boost the immune system.
The term was coined in the 1980s after Japan’s Forest Agency noticed officials working in a wooded environment were increasingly healthy and relaxed. Scientific studies have since supported this observation!
Forest bathing can be a great way to reduce anxiety in kids – helping them detach from worries, feel connected to nature and bring them back to the present moment.
Try sitting in a forest quietly for 20 minutes or longer, and practise deep breathing – from the belly, not the chest. Be mindful of what you can see, smell, touch and hear.
Craft activities – like leaf rubbing, collage or wildflower pressing – are a great way to give kids a different focus, help them feel accomplished and engaged with something new.
Check out this blog for more great nature crafts to do with kids!
Grab a notebook and pen. Go outside into your garden or to your local woods or park. Using all your senses, write down what you can see, hear, smell and touch. Now write down how you feel, and what you are thinking about.
This activity will help children to express their feelings and connect to the present moment.
Walk and Talk
Talking about worries or emotions can be difficult for children. Going for a walk in nature, where there’s lots of open space, things to see, and a physical activity to do, can help children feel calmer and talk more openly about their feelings. Taking your child’s favourite stuffed animal or teddy can also support stress reduction.
Why not go to your local bluebell woodland? Find one local to you here!
Planting and tending flowers and vegetables with your kids will not only add a rainbow of colour to your garden, it has powerful mental benefits too!
Relieving nervous tension in the body, gardening is a great way to reduce anxiety in children.
While plants require care and commitment in order to thrive, gardening also gives children a sense of responsibility. As Raoul Lindsay, mental health expert [BBC] explained: “Giving daily attention to your plant and looking after it will help give your little one a sense of purpose and excitement.”
California poppies or cornflowers are great flowers to easily grow from seed! Alternatively, grow a herb garden – sowing plants like basil and chives in pots or planting a bed of rosemary and thyme.
This article from rest equation breaks down what you need to know about anxiety disorders in more depth.
We hope you found these suggestions to help kids feel less anxious useful! If you have any feedback or suggestions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram.
The Buttercup Team