I loved recently writing this special blog for Collins4Parents, the education publishers, within HarperCollins. So much so that I thought, I would share it here too, especially as it’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Helping kids find mindfulness at home through gardening
Finding mindfulness can be tricky right now, even more so when the term ‘mindfulness’ can mean different things to people and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ way to gain mental wellbeing.
There are many different activities that can definitely help though, so I want to share with you my five ways that gardening can be good for children’s mental wellbeing. Not only will I explain how it helps, but I will also include a few ideas to try along the way.
“I wish” you might be saying, but helping our little ones relax can definitely help us too. The great thing about gardening is that many of the processes are quick, but also quite meditative. So long as we, as the adults, make the steps clear and concise, then it’s easier for them to follow along, relax and play. I think relaxing as the parent and not worrying about them making a mess in the garden or accidentally pulling up a plant they thought was a weed, can make a big difference to their desire to try gardening too. An idea might be to try doing the same task next to each other, so they can visually follow your lead, but in their own space.
Getting outside in the garden or any outdoor space is a great place to explore your imagination. Imagine how the garden might look when flowers are blooming and vegetables are growing, but also imagine further. Make fairy gardens, talk to the fairies and create a story. Alternatively, imagine dragons or dinosaurs are taking over the garden, what are you going to do? Let them decide, do they need to tip toe or hide quietly? Whilst story-making in the garden, may not be technically gardening, it associates the outside space with happy, creative time. Maybe do a bit of imaginative play, then some gardening and repeat throughout the time outside, or integrate the gardening in to the story. For example, do you need to grow particular plants for the dragon and fairy friends that will come visiting?
3. Be creative
Allowing space for children to explore and empty their minds in a creative way is hugely important for mindfulness. Talking openly about confusing or upsetting feelings can be really tricky but letting them out in other more practical ways works well. Giving your children their own area of the garden, allows them to have a great sense of control and ownership, both things we all really need, but are hard to have as a child. Let your child do anything they wish in this space, whether that’s filling it with vegetables, flowers, a bean den, bug hotel or mud pie kitchen. It may not go with the rest of your garden design or scheme and you may have to divert your eyes from the mess, but it could be hugely rewarding for them.
Creating a direct connection to the soil, grass, plants and wildlife can be very grounding. Encourage them go barefoot as long as it’s safe and put their hands in the soil, so they can feel the earth’s energy. Let them pick up wiggly worms, caterpillars and ladybirds. Show them all the different textures and smells of the plants, or if you don’t have any plants full of sensory benefits such as herbs, flowers and grasses, see if you can incorporate them in to your garden. Sensory play is fun and incredibly calming.
The garden is a very gentle place to teach and learn new things such as the colours, numbers, names of different wildlife who live in the garden, the names of flowers and how to take care and nurture a plant. How does learning new things help with mindfulness you may ask? Well knowing more about what is around us and gaining new skills can really boost confidence, which in turn can make us happier and calmer. We know more, which means we can do more and have less uncertainties. Plus, once you know to how to look after a plant, it is sometimes much easier to understand how to look after ourselves and why.