Mindfulness and Forest School
Mindfulness and Forest School are happy partners. Not in the cross-legged, silent way you might associate with meditation, but in the way that being mindful of the sensory experience’s outdoors helps us to let go of worries, anxieties, stress and enjoy the moment – in nature.
Many people reading this will have at least one cherished memory of playing in a wild space. Remember the excitement of building a den from sticks; the concentrated effort of mixing up mud pies; the fear and fascination of discovering a world of creepy crawlies under a rock; the nervous determination to climb up to that higher branch of the big tree; the sweet smell of summer grasses or the fun of chasing your friends around the trees.
The world was a different place 30-odd years ago. We are now a much busier, urbanised and risk-averse society. But does this mean kids are missing out on some of the most valuable experiences of childhood?
The natural world is the greatest playground of all. It’s a place where the imagination can go wild, confidence is built and health – physical and emotional – is fostered. It’s a place to learn about the unpredictability of life through adventure, exploration, sensation and interaction. Experiencing the joys and risks of the outdoor world is, according to some experts, as important for young people as proper sleep and good nutrition.
Magic Spots – A Mindfulness Activity
One of the activities I like to include in our Forest School sessions is ‘Magic Spots’, where everyone finds their own special place to sit quietly and be alone in nature. Although we have been doing this for years before we even knew mindfulness was a ‘thing’ – it is a fantastic mindfulness in nature activity for children.
The first five minutes can be difficult to get through, for children and adults. You want to move, make a noise, attract attention, find someone to pull faces at – anything but be alone. This experience can feel strange at first, slightly unnerving and possibly boring. Then the wind moves some leaves, or the sun comes out from behind a cloud, or you shift to get more comfortable and find there is a really interesting insect climbing along a blade of grass. Suddenly you’re hooked.
From your ‘magic spot’ you can see plants and animals close by, hear birds and insects, smell the earth and touch moss, quivering grass, a feather or leaf. It’s a wonderful exercise to encourage children to do in any natural place, just for a few minutes at first building up over time to 20 or 30 minutes. Afterwards, they can write, draw or talk about what they’ve seen, touched, smelt, heard. It becomes a treat, builds confidence, calms troubled minds and fosters imagination.
Whether you try the ‘magic spots’ activity yourself, or with your children, just being outdoors makes you happy – so get outside and have a go!