Establishing Rituals for Children: Nature Walks

In my last post, I pondered the idea of establishing rituals to help create a peaceful and relaxed environment for children. I didn’t want the prospect of these rituals to be daunting or forced so taking a nature walk seemed like a good place to start! Simple, enjoyable, achievable.

I like to consider the following 5 points to ensure our outings are pleasant, engaging and meaningful.

1. Slow it Down

If we’re trying to create a positive experience for children then rushing them along unnecessarily isn’t in the spirit of what establishing a meaningful ritual is all about. I always encourage my little ones to be energetic and run like the wind… if that’s what they want to do, but I also highlight the importance of enjoying the quiet and finding ways to be still occasionally.

I always plan for fifteen minutes of getting ready to walk and an hour of actual walking and exploring. This gives us time to discuss what we might see or do as well as giving everyone a chance to feel excited before it has even happened. There is no rushing. It will happen because I’ve allowed for that window of time. Our slower pace means we can take it all in and enjoy the fact that we’re out and about.

2. Be Flexible

For us, a morning walk seems to work best. The time of day is important, especially when considering the smallest of humans and their needs. After a few test runs I’ve decided that mornings are when everyone tends to be happy and enthusiastic. Very few meltdowns happen at this time!

However, I always make room for the unplanned [insert toddler tantrums here] and because I want these experiences to be joyful, taking a screaming toddler along (because we must stick to our ritual!!) just doesn’t cut it with me. So sometimes they just don’t happen… and that’s okay.

3. Predictability and Adventure

Another important factor for me is creating some form of predictably without making it feel like Ground Hog Day. We’ve gently eased into our walks and added new parts on a monthly basis to ensure everyone feels safe and secure. Sometimes we might take a different path or go the long way around but by keeping the setting the same or at least similar, means the children know what to expect.

Having said that, we still have our fair share of adventures along the way! I always support age appropriate risk taking and encourage challenging activities such as balancing on rocks or climbing over logs. In doing this we’re adding a little extra excitement along the way.

4. Find Somewhere Beautiful

We’re so lucky that our walks include a lovely bush/forrest setting found at the end of the street. Finding a beautiful space to walk through can be helpful if we want to make a simple walk with our children something more.

Using our senses when exploring the animals and plant life around us turns our walk into a beautiful, calm experience. If your daily walk is a little more urban and concrete you can still find plenty of interesting things to explore so take your time to find the best setting for everyone. Often you’ll be surprised at what you can find when you really take the time to enjoy a walk along a busy footpath!

5. Include Elements of Learning

Games, challenges and competitions are fantastic ways to engage with and learn about the environment, so I try to include a simple activity each time. I encourage everyone to be inquisitive and excited about the world around them.

Sometimes our activity involves collecting the natural resources we find along the way (so many sticks and rocks!) or capturing photos of our discoveries and adventures. We take these back with us to use for future activities or to simply revisit that moment in time and reflect.

Any activity you include throughout your day can simply be routine, being the thing you do to get from A to B. Of course, sometimes that’s necessary but I invite you to take one of those simple tasks and turn it into something more. Engage in purposeful activities together and take the time to enjoy what you’re doing along the way.

Make it meaningful.

Bree x

Rain Clouds and Mindfulness 

A few weeks ago my daughter and I made rain clouds in a jar. An easy little experiment you can do with any child starting from preschool age really, and although it’s a fantastic way of exploring the science behind rain clouds and weather in general, we ended up going along an entirely different path from what I had planned in my mind the night before.

We naturally (somehow?!) gravitated towards mindfulness.

Once the excitement of spraying shaving cream everywhere (and I mean everywhere!) had subsided we took a moment to chat about what might happen once the food dye was added..

“It will explode!”

“Will it make the white clouds blue?”

“It will go down the bottom…”

I really tried to slow down the process of beginning and finishing this activity in the hopes we’d gain more from it… in a way it meant we weren’t controlled by it. There were no expectations and nothing needed to be achieved in order for it to be successful. I tried to help my daughter focus on what we were doing during that precise moment before focusing on what may happen in a few moments. We avoided the rush by really settling into the activity… We looked at what we had in front of us… we talked about what the ingredients and materials are used for… and we talked about what we hoped would happen. Building the anticipation is all a part of it but I was mindful of th fact that preschoolers are eager to get things moving and so, I took her cue and moved on as necessary.

We added a drop at a time and waited patiently… well… I did! To begin with we didn’t notice too much but again, without rushing I invited my daughter to take a moment to think about the clouds outside and what they do, what they look like and where they go. Before adding the next drop I asked her to close her eyes and imagine a rainy day…

“What does it look like?”

Drip.

“How do you feel?”

Drip.

“What can you hear…?”

Drip…

“Look!”

Little droplets of ‘rain’ were making their way down through the shaving cream clouds and after those few moments of calm we erupted into laughter and excitement about what we saw. It was finally raining and met with such joy and relief from my little one…

After adding more food dye we watched the swirls of blue glide around inside the jar and again it brought us back towards a state of calm. We were mesmerised by these watery snake like creatures swimming around in waves and figure eights. We didn’t say much. We just sat and watched. As adults we tend to sometimes talk AT our kids instead of WITH them. We can also be guilty of not really listening to what they have to say either. We tell them what to do, where to go and how to be. Sometimes what we really need to do is just shut up and give them the time and space they deserve as people. They are people remember? They’re just small. Watch and listen a little more. Take their lead and let them tell you something about their world.

So as the drips continued I too continued to watch my daughter. Silently she followed those thin blue lines as they dripped down in quick succession. She was exploring something new at her own pace and in her own way. In this moment I didn’t feel the need to explain the science behind what we were doing or ask any questions. A few days later when we read a book about weather I was able to refer back to this exact moment and that became the time to learn what was really going on. But in this silent moment I just enjoyed watching and listening. Listening and watching. I listened to her choice of vocabulary used to explain what she saw and I watched her reactions to the changes in the water… How her eyes darted from the bottom of the jar back up to the top so she could poke the shaving cream clouds with her finger in the hopes more blue would be released…
“The blue is dripping through the clouds Mummy!”

From here we engaged in a brief conversation about why that would be. Stopping myself I allowed her to explain her thinking…

“It drops down because the clouds aren’t strong. The rain is strong.”

Amazing.

We continued to silently watch the rain clouds until the water turned blue which led to my little one coming to the realisation that she was indeed very hungry and needed a second breakfast. We did the experiment a second time later in the day so her big sister could experience it too (and so I could take some photos!). Miss 4 explained in her own way what we were about to do and what would happen… a teacher in the making I’m sure!

Although I had planned this activity it was completely led by what I saw my daughter doing as well as what she was eager to take part in and therefore changed direction. If she wasn’t keen on imagining a rainy day or asking questions then I wouldn’t have pushed it. I also didn’t push my own agenda on her. What I had hoped would happen didn’t but that was okay. What we ended up experiencing and what I learnt from her were things I couldn’t plan for and that’s far more exciting and meaningful.

I think it’s important to add an element of calm and mindfulness to the lessons or activities we plan for our children. We don’t need to set aside an hour here or there in our teaching week, just a moment or two on a daily basis where we can slow down a little to help us all become more aware of who we are and what we’re doing, which is exactly what this activity taught me. I do realise this romantic idea of calming tones, taking deep breaths and being at one with ourselves can sometimes be hard to achieve or be met with rolling eyes in a classroom setting, but I think we owe it to ourselves and our students to find a way of making it work in our own way. We need to find that time.

I’m eager to explore other ways I can incorporate mindfulness into my day as a mother and teacher in order to help build stronger connections with small people in my life as well as to develop a better understanding of self…

How do you promote mindfulness amongst your children/students?