Outdoor Health and Wellbeing Ideas For Children
The great outdoors is important for the maintenance of our health and wellbeing from a young age. When looking to help those in the early years promote good mental health, the value of stepping out into the fresh air becomes apparent.
Being outdoors not only provides us with fresh air, but it also has been proven to reduce stress levels and promote the release of happy hormones. As we support Children’s Mental Health Week, we want to take a look at some outdoor wellbeing activities children can participate in.
What are the benefits of children performing activities outside?
- Improve learning and development
- Increase understanding of the world
- Prevent Vitamin D deficiency
- Improve stress levels
- Encourage physical activity
- Prevent obesity
- Reduce ADHD symptoms
The following activities can be completed in your garden at home, on the school field, or in a local park or woodland. Building an outdoor connection and stepping outside will be beneficial to the mental health and wellbeing of everyone who takes part.
The first activity we want to share is barefoot walking. When choosing the best location for this, be sure to avoid anywhere with sharp rocks or branches. Try to stick to a field or meadow that will be relatively soft while still giving that skin to ground contact. Connecting to the ground through the sensation of touch is a wonderful exercise for early years children, as it will enhance health and provide a feeling of relaxation. Walking barefoot on the ground helps to strengthen muscles, and walking on uneven ground can promote the development of balance. When walking on the ground barefoot, ask children what sensations they are feeling, how they feel inside, and whether they like the soft ground.
Inspecting Small Creatures
When looking to teach children about the great outdoors, inspecting small creatures is a useful way to develop a child’s understanding of the world around them. Head out into a garden or park and look for small beetles, ladybirds, worms, and other insects and show these to the children. Allow them to observe these small creatures and start to understand how they move, navigate, and contribute to their ecosystem. Encourage children to pick up these small creatures and take a close look at them, being gentle as not to hurt them.
If you have a pond in your garden or at your local country park, a valuable exercise is to go pond dipping. Allowing children to use small clear buckets to scoop up water, before inspecting the creatures and plants within will help to improve their cognitive development as well as feel sensation and stimuli.
Being outdoors has many benefits for a child’s mental and physical wellbeing. Plants contribute clean air to our world, and teaching children how to plant a small seedling in soil can be a wonderful exercise for them. Choose a flowering plant such as marigolds and prepare some soil and plant pots outside on a sunny afternoon. Now you can show a child how to plant a small seedling before watering it to help it grow. Over the next few weeks and months, you will be able to regularly check on your plants and the children will feel a great sense of pride when their flowers start to bloom.
Making mud balls
Not all outdoor wellbeing activities need to be educational, and this messy exercise is simply a great way for children to let go and have a little fun. You’ve heard of snowballs, but what about mud balls? Encourage children to head outside and form balls out of mud. This sensory activity is perfect for wellbeing and children can even have a little mud ball fight with these afterwards.
Trees have incredible importance in our ecosystem, and helping children to understand the benefits of trees from a young age is an important lesson. Scientific studies have shown that trees can help reduce stress, ADHD symptoms, and alleviate headaches amongst other things. Encourage children to hug a tree for a few minutes, and they will start to experience a positive change in their mood as happy hormones are released. There is a reason tree hugging is a common saying!
Use some of these helpful outdoor wellbeing activities to improve children’s mental health this week.