Nature plays a significant role in spirituality for people of all ages. During the pandemic, many families have found that spending time outdoors has soothed their souls and broken the monotony of being socially isolated. Public health research shows that being in nature contributes to physical and emotional wellbeing. Even short exposures can reduce tension and fear, lower the production of stress hormones, and increase feelings of pleasure and calm.
Whether it’s walking or biking along trails, playing in backyards, planting a container garden, or just noticing a dandelion growing through a crack in the sidewalk, take a few minutes with a child this Earth Day (April 22) or any day to get in touch with nature using one of these ideas:*
Invite a child to stand beside you with bare feet firmly planted on the ground. Raise and lower your heels to feel the sturdiness of the ground beneath your feet. Imagine all the layers of soil and rock that are below the place where you stand. Think about how strong the earth has to be to support trees, buildings, cars, people, animals, and everything else. Ask yourselves: How can we be strong like the earth? With older children, ask: What threatens the strength of the earth? and How can we support the earth and keep it strong? Agree to support one another in being strong like the earth and protecting it.
Digital Green Space
Go for a walk with a child and invite them to take photos of plants and green spaces they see along the way. Get creative with angles and filters to turn the photos into fun art. Post them on social media with a hashtag such as #EarthDay2021 or #DigitalGreenSpace.
Invite a child to help you pick a green space where both of you can sit and observe. Take 5 minutes noticing everything around you. Observe silently for at least a minute and then share quietly with each other what you see. Notice the littlest things and point them out to one another. Decide together what is most amazing about the things around you. Agree to return to this spot in a few days or a week and see what has changed.
Earth Day (Any Day) Bingo
Work with children to create bingo cards of things in nature that can be seen walking through the area where you live. You can agree to use the same items and rearrange them so that columns and lines vary from card to card, or each child’s card can feature unique items selected solely by them. Once your cards are done, take a walk and see who is first to bingo! Celebrate with a cheer for the beauty and wonder of the earth.
Select a packet of seeds or a flat of seedlings for flowers or vegetables that your children want to grow. You can also use chunks of potato with ‘eyes’. Find several pots – recycled plastic containers can work – or a patch of yard in which to create your garden. Plant your seeds or seedlings with the children. Each time you water the plants together, take time to notice how they are growing and changing. Marvel at the wonder of life unfolding.
Collect sticks, grass cuttings, flower petals, seed pods, pebbles, and other natural items with children. Notice the variety of shapes, forms, and colors among the items you’ve collected. Use them to make sculptures, pictures or decorated recycled containers. Notice how different combinations of items become unique creations through each child’s imaginative use of them. Celebrate the diversity of the natural world and of the children as artists.
*Some ideas inspired by author Leah Schade’s “10 Practices for Earth Day” list