“The greener the setting, the more the relief,” writes Richard Louv, the acclaimed author of the best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv, who argues that outdoor play is vital for children (since it helps them focus, boosts their creativity, and enhances their physical and mental health) hit the nail on the head when he stated that nature also has an important role to play in relaxation. One (2019) study published in the journal Frontiers showed that just 20 minutes of contact with nature lowers stress hormone (cortisol) levels, leading researchers to recommend ‘green time’ as “a low-cost solution to reduce the negative health impacts stemming from growing urbanization and indoor lifestyles dominated by screen viewing.” If you regularly take your child to parks and playgrounds so they can indulge in unstructured play, make the most of the experience by teaching them how to relax outdoors.
Forest/park Baths for All
Relaxing in the Great Outdoors can involve something as simple as taking a ‘forest bath’ or ‘park bath’. This simply involves visiting a green area and opening all your senses to the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and textures around you. Researchers at the USDA Forest Service report that spending time in forests and parks can reduce anger and aggressiveness, improve moods, reduce stress, and increase overall happiness. Make your forest or park bath a breeze by asking your children to notice the sounds their feet make when they walk over trees, the sound of birds chirping, the feel of tree bark, and the scent of flowers.
If children love nothing more than a nap after a day’s play, why not make it more fun than ever by tying a hammock to trees and enjoying a few minutes of shady rest? Depending on who will be using the hammock and your personal preferences, there are many styles to choose from - ranging from classic hammocks (ideal to take on a picnic in the park) to hammock chairs (which are a fun way for parents and children to take a rest between outdoor activities). You can take the concept of outdoor naps home by putting a tent out in the yard and filling it with fairy lights. Enjoy an outdoor dinner with kids, listen to your favorite songs, or read them a mystery book while they chill out on soft bean bags or quilted blankets.
Numerous studies have shown that yoga can have a plethora of benefits for children, including stress relief and relaxation. The outdoors are a magnificent ‘moving canvas’ to form part of by taking part in holistic activities such as yoga - though you might also like to dabble in Tai Chi, mindfulness meditation, and controlled breathing - all of which are proven stress busters. If you choose yoga, start off with simple asanas (or postures) you can teach your kids. These can include the cat pose (involving getting down on all fours, taking a deep breath, and hunching your back as you exhale air); the tree pose (lifting the right leg off the floor and resting the foot on the left thigh while holding one’s palms together); and the cobra pose (lying on one’s stomach and resting on one’s hands, with one’s elbows bent and back arched).
Outdoor play is all about adventure but Nature is also an ideal setting for relaxation. Parents can encourage children to relax by partaking in outdoor yoga, setting up a hammock between trees, or taking a forest or park bath. Simply being in the Great Outdoors reduces stress hormones so if you prefer, you can simply concentrate on keeping your mind in the present moment.