Originally published: May 2023
Think back to a time when you noticed your child looking calm and relaxed. Maybe they were gazing up at the clouds, digging in a garden, or jumping in some leaves. Parents and caregivers often say that kids seem most at peace when they’re outside—they’re focused, relaxed, and happy.
Research confirms that spending time outside is good for mental health and overall wellbeing. Try these tips to help your kids connect with nature and maintain positive mental health.
Embrace nature all around
Help your child explore natural areas near your home and in your community. Nature is all around us in Alberta! From parks and pathways to forests, lakes, and fields, use the spaces that are handy for your family. Join a community garden or try growing plants, herbs, or flowers in your backyard or on the balcony.
Plan for outdoor time
Make spending time in nature a priority for your family. It’s okay to start small. Try going outside for just a few minutes each day, then work up to longer stretches of time. Here are some ideas that can help:
- Talk with your kids about healthy after school routines. Encourage them to disconnect from technology and spend time outside.
- Take stock of activities you typically do indoors, then try moving them outside. For example, read or play board games in the backyard. Turn your meals into outdoor picnics or have family chats when you’re out walking the dog.
- As a family, plan outdoor activities you’ll do together, like biking, camping, or going on a nature hike. Schedule these activities in your family calendar—this will make you more likely to stick to your plans.
Get active in all types of weather
Get your child moving outside in all seasons, in all weather conditions! When kids are outdoors, they tend to take more steps and play in more active ways.
Try this handy guide to teach your child how to dress for the weather, then encourage them to run, play, and explore the outdoors in ways that make sense to them. For example, they might splash in rainy puddles, look for animal tracks in the snow, or simply enjoy the warmth of the sun.
Cultivate positive connections with nature by helping your child reflect on how they feel when they’re outside. Here’s what you can do:
- Try a 5-4-3-2-1 sensory activity to get your child noticing nature with all their senses. Ask them about:
- 5 things they can see
- 4 things they feel
- 3 things they can hear
- 2 things they can smell
- 1 thing they can taste (like a sip from their water bottle)
- Talk with your child about how nature makes them feel. Help them build their vocabulary—they might feel calm, vibrant, refreshed, energetic, or free. By helping your child name and describe their emotions, you’ll help them nurture a positive relationship with the outdoors.
- Try mindful practices—breathing exercises and other meditations that can help kids focus on the present moment and be curious about the natural environment. Download this free mindful walking tip sheet for activities you can try together.
- Do a nature gratitude activity. Every day or week, ask your child what they appreciate about the outdoors and what they’re grateful for. Use their ideas to spark family conversations.
Strengthen family bonds
Outdoor experiences can bring families together, creating shared experiences and lasting memories. Many outdoor activities have little or no cost. Here are some examples for free, outdoor family fun:
- Try a nature family scavenger hunt.
- Collect natural items (like twigs, rocks, bark, grasses, and pinecones) and make them into art.
- Keep a family nature journal—take turns recording your adventures with words, drawings, or photos. Try to capture what you did, what you noticed, and how you felt. (One day, you’ll be glad you did!).
For more information, go to: