12 Mindful Activities in Nature for Children  - Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 - Hues Clothing

12 Mindful Activities in Nature for Children - Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

 This is a wonderful blog post written by Hollie Barber for Mental Health Awareness Week. It is also the perfect time of year to get outside with your kids in nature, so her blog couldn't be timed better. Hollie is a children's mindfulness coach and you can find her on Instagram at @rainbeauadventures.

Hollie is also one of our wonderful brand reps and you can use her discount code RAINBEAUADVENTURES15 to receive a 15% discount on your order. 

‘It’s a wondrous thing, how the wild calms the child’ -Unknown

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 and the theme for this year is ‘anxiety’. 

In my job as a children’s mindfulness coach, art therapist and mum of four, I experience and observe first-hand how restorative, engaging and calming connecting with nature can be, especially to help ease symptoms of anxiety and reduce stress. That’s why I’ve put together this blog of twelve mindful and calming activities to help children form a deeper connection with nature and the world around us.

There are many mental health benefits to being outside - evidence shows that being in nature can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, calm the nervous system, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety and improve mood.

 For children, spending time in nature offers all the same benefits as the above, as well as a wealth of fantastic learning opportunities, freedom of expression and sensory experiences. 

Nature play stimulates creativity and problem-solving skills, develops social skills, concentration and a better understanding and sense of self. Spending time in nature has also been linked to the mitigation of ADHD/ADD symptoms and can be a wonderful way to emotionally regulate and release all those feel-good chemicals in their brains.

But I appreciate, not everyone has the luxury access to outdoor space on their doorstep. Having a garden or living in a rural area is a privilege that I feel very grateful for living here in rural Dorset. But that doesn’t mean that nature cannot be found where you are! The poppy growing between two paving slabs in the middle of a city centre, the blossoming tree at the local park and the wildflowers on the tiny patch of grass at the end of your road - just shows that life always finds a way.















4 textures from nature - 3 different barks and a leaf

THE BENEFITS: boosts mood, relieves stress and anxiety, boosts immunity, improves sleep, boosts self-esteem, and develops a deeper understanding of nature and surroundings. 

One of the most effective ways to practise mindfulness outside is by ‘mindful walking’. This is achieved by tapping into the use of all five of our senses whilst we walk, leading our child through an all-over body and mind sensory experience and bringing them to the present moment, the here and now. 

A ‘sensory scavenger hunt’ is a great way to not only engage children whilst walking but also help them practise some really beneficial mindfulness techniques too. This can be done verbally as you go, or written down/drawn on paper as you walk.

👃🏼- take a deep breath in through your nose and pay attention to what you can smell. Do you like the smell? Does it remind you of anything? Repeat this on your walk as many times as you like – encourage your child(ren) to smell a range of different plants or objects as they walk.

👁 - look around you – what can you see? How many different colours or shapes can you spot? Can you find something for every colour of the rainbow? Can you find a special piece of ‘nature treasure’* to take home with you?

👂🏼 - stand still for a moment, be quiet and listen – the wind, birds, traffic, people… how many different sounds can you hear? How many different sounds can you hear as you walk? The crunching of leaves or sticks beneath your feet, or the splashing of puddles under your boots? 

🤚🏻 - can you find something that feels Smooth/Rough? Spiky/Soft? Hot/Cold? Wet/Dry? There are so many amazing textures to be found in nature... Take some paper and wax crayons with you and do some ‘rubbings’ - place your paper over the top of a leaf or the bark of a tree, and rub your crayon over it to make some beautiful artwork from the inspiring patterns and textures. 

👄 Practise some mindful eating/drinking with the snacks or drinks you have brought with you on your walk. Start by looking at what you are about to eat/drink? - what colour is it? What shape is it? Feel it in your hands - what does it feel like? Is it hot or cold? Smooth or rough? Now take a smell of it - what does it smell like? Can you describe what it smells of? Now place the item of food slowly onto your tongue (or take a small bite), and let it sit there for a moment. Begin to move it around your mouth, paying attention to all the sensations in different areas of your mouth and tongue. Describe any flavours or sensations you are experiencing. When you are ready, swallow what you’re eating and mentally follow it’s journey down your throat and through your body. Now take a moment to think about where this food has come from, how many people have been involved in its growth/production and how many miles you think it has travelled in it’s lifetime. Give thanks to all those involved in it’s journey to you and appreciate every mouthful as you continue to eat. 

*nature treasure can be anything that the child is particularly drawn to – a stick, a stone, a leaf, a snail-shell, etc. When your child stops to look at an odd shaped pebble on the floor, a line of ants or a questionable stain that vaguely resembles a footprint… crouch down with them and lose yourself in their world for a moment. The uninspiring piece of gravel may not be interesting to you, but it can be fascinating to them. Young children are often far more ‘mindful’ than us adults at times, so it can be wonderful to see the world through their eyes for a moment!



A Mandala of wild flowers

THE BENEFITS: develops creativity and imagination, boosts mood, calms the mind, boosts self-esteem and develops fine motor skills

ACTIVITY: Making a nature mandala.

A mandala is a piece of art, usually using repeating patterns within a circular shape. Encourage your child to collect together some raw materials - leaves, sticks, flowers, shells, pine cones, stones... although be mindful of what you can or cannot use (Grandma might not be too pleased if you picked one of her favourite dahlias for example! 😬). 

Once you have a range of different things to create with, get making! There really is no right or wrong to this task - simply let the materials you have access to inspire you and let that creativity flow! You may find that half way through you need to go and collect some more items, or you may want to change your idea completely. And that’s ok - trust in the process and enjoy being in the creative moment and making something beautiful! 

PLEASE NOTE: Many wildflowers are protected, so please only pick ones you know are not, or are in your own garden. The same applies to leaves and sticks - encourage the child to pick up ones from the floor rather than break them of off plants where possible. 




🌈 SKILLS DEVELOPED: Concentration, Creativity, Imagination, Confidence, Patience, Self-Expression, Self-Esteem, Self-Awareness, Spacial Awareness, Sensory Skills, Fine Motor Skills, Dexterity

Getting creative with nature is probably the most broad and versatile activity there is. Each time giving us a different experience with so many unique options and possibilities. 

As well as my job as a children’s mindfulness coach, I have a qualification in art therapy, so I know how beneficial to mental health being given the freedom to express ourselves through creative practice can be. 

Wherever you are, there’s always something to be found that can get those creative juices flowing...

Mud/clay can be used to make faces, animals and objects, or can be watered down to make paint. The open-ended nature of mud encourages creative thinking and allows children to freely create without fear of making mistakes. This also contributes to a child's sense of self, helping to build a strong inner sense of competency, and it’s great for the immune system too! 

Chalky stones can be used to draw pictures - depending on where you are in the world you may have access to many different colours of chalk to work with. They can also be watered down to make paint. 

Leaves, flowers and sticks can be made into crowns, stick people, flat-lay pictures or sculptures. 

The important thing to remember when creating is that not every activity has to have a purpose or an end goal. Encourage your child to be truly in the moment, try to not guide them through their creative practice, but instead just sit back and let them feel and find their own way. That’s when the real magic happens! 



A girl at a beach balancing a pile of stones

SKILLS DEVELOPED: patience, resilience, perseverance, mindfulness, focus, concentration, creativity, imagination, hand-to-eye coordination, dexterity

Gather a selection of pebbles and start stacking them on top of each other. You will soon learn that patience and perseverance are key when balancing - they may fall several times, but take your time, be patient and trust in the process. Each time your tower falls, take a deep breath, and try again, thus building a growth mindset and learning more about weight, placement and balance each time. 

I’m always amazed at how calming and engaging this activity is for young children. I’ve spent hours on the beach with my kids building tower after tower; exploring different ways we can make them balance and scouring the beach for perfect shapes and sizes. 

Don’t live near a beach? No worries! It’s not just pebbles you can balance... towers can be made with sticks and rocks of all shapes and sizes too! ☺️



ACTIVITY: Frozen nature ice play

This is one of my favourite activities to do with my toddler, but to be honest my older ones love being involved too! We’ve done this activity in every season, each time with an entirely different outcome as seasons change and we have access to different items. 

Collect an assortment of nature's ‘treasures’ - flowers, leaves, berries, nuts, shells, stones etc, and arrange them inside an empty muffin tray. Top each muffin indent up with water and place in the freezer for 3-6 hours (or until you want to use them!). Remove from the freezer, take outside and let your toddler/child explore! Have some cups/syringes of warm water so they can explore melting the ice, and offer a range of other bowls and cutlery so they can enjoy letting their imagination run wild with soup making/cake baking/art creating! 



A small child in a brightly patterned t-shirt holding a bowl of tomatoes

SKILLS DEVELOPED: Patience, mindfulness, gratitude, understanding of life cycles and plant anatomy, 

Growing your own plants is such a great way of instilling connection to nature and a sense of responsibility and achievement in children, as well as engaging all of their senses and helping them develop and recognise them without even realising. The entire process from choosing and sowing seeds, to watching them grow, caring for them, watering them, harvesting and eating/picking them is so rewarding and is fab for teaching patience as well as giving children a better awareness of the work that goes into many of the fruits and vegetables they eat on a daily basis. This develops a better sense of gratitude for the entire process of food production from seed to fork and can encourage healthier eating too. 

Getting ‘dirty’ is also great for the immune system and mental health - so don’t be afraid to let them get muddy! 



A small wooden house with a sign that says Bug Hotel

From the tiniest of ants, to the biggest of pets, teaching children the importance of caring for every living creature is such a lovely way to promote empathy, connection and kindness. 

ACTIVITY: Make a bug hotel 

SKILLS DEVELOPED: Empathy, creativity, imagination, mindfulness, concentration, confidence, patience, dexterity.

Making a designated area in your garden or local park/field for bugs is such a fantastic way of promoting care and consideration for all of life’s creatures. From the mindful foraging for contents and materials to the designing and putting together of the area or structure; each part of the process is a lovely calming way for children to express themselves creatively. 

You don’t need to have a big space or any special equipment to make one - I’ve seen some fantastic ones just made within a very small area using stones and sticks! 

We recently made a bug hotel in our garden using upcycled bits of scrap wood and materials we had collected on walks. My son, Zachary made and painted a sign and he and my youngest Nox, have been having so much fun filling it with all our foraged finds. 



A small child in nature wearing a green jacket holding a round tray with rainbow colours and items from nature to match each colour.

SKILLS DEVELOPED: Colour recognition, creativity, hand to eye coordination, plat/flower knowledge 

This is a lovely activity for all ages which encourages mindful walking and awareness of one’s surroundings. For younger children, it’s great for developing colour recognition and for older ones it’s fab for instilling a bit of purpose to their walks. It’s a great opportunity to learn a bit more about seasonal plants and flowers too – we’ve done Rainbow Nature Hunts all year round and each time we are gifted an entirely different experience. 

We love using our @helliontoys colour wheel for our finds, but you could always replicate something similar on cardboard or use an egg box instead! Or if you’re not keen on the idea of picking your finds, you could always take photographs or simply memorise your colourful nature treasures! 

Flower/plant hunts aren’t the only types of mindful nature hunts you can do however, there are some great ‘i spy’ guides out there for spotting and identifying different trees, plants, fungi and animals! 

In Spring, we love to get our binoculars out and go bird spotting, and in Autumn one of our favourite activities of all time is mushroom hunting! 

With any activity that requires children to listen and look for different things outside; the seeker is in the present moment, stimulating all of their senses, paying close attention to the little things and becoming truly at one with nature. 



4 photo of 4 sets of feet standing on grass.

THE BENEFITS: Increases mood, relieves anxiety and stress, lowers pain levels, improves sleep, and boosts immunity. 

‘Grounding’ or ‘Earthing’ is a therapeutic technique that energetically reconnects you to the earth. 

There are many ways you can ground yourself, but the most simple and effective way for children is to simply take both shoes and socks off, and stand on the earth. The most popular choice of where to stand is grass, but some children may prefer to stand on soil, sand or mud! As you stand for a few moments, bring your focus to how the ground feels beneath your feet - in your mind or out loud, describe any sensations you are feeling - how hot or cold the ground feels, what the pressure feels like against the souls of your feet. To take this further, you could close your eyes and visualise roots growing down into the earth, out of your feet and through layer after layer of earth, sediment, rock and crystal - connect these roots to the Earth’s core and imagine drawing up all that wonderful energy back up through your roots, through every layer, up into your feet and into your body. You can visualise this energy as light, warmth or simply a ‘knowing’ - there is no right or wrong to it - simply let the practice take you wherever it leads. 

You can also ground through your hands - by touching earth, grass, soil, sand, or a tree for example. Release that inner hippie and get hugging those trees! 



A photo of two children sitting on the grass cross legged meditating with trees behind them.

An ‘om’ is a sacred sound and Sanskrit symbol most commonly used in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. It represents the essence of ultimate consciousness; truth, knowledge, divine energy and the entirety of the universe. 

When the ‘om’ sound is chanted, it vibrates at the frequency of 432Hz – the very same vibrational frequency found in all things throughout nature. Everything around us is pulsating and vibrating, so when we chant the ‘aum’ sound, we are symbolically and physically acknowledging our connection to nature and all other living beings.

When factoring Om chanting into your daily morning or evening routine, you are creating a great opportunity for children to practise their breath work and body awareness, and a lovely way to relax their bodies, slow down their nervous systems, and calm their minds… and it works just as well for us adults too!

Start by sitting up tall with a nice straight back and open chest, closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Teach children the sounds of these three syllables; ‘A’ pronounced as “awe”, ‘U’ pronounced as “oo” and ‘M’ pronounced as “mmm”. Practise taking a deep breath in and move through these three sounds in sequence; try to keep the change between sounds fluid and pay attention to where in your body you feel the vibrations. Discuss with your child where they feel it inside their body and how it makes them feel.

For younger children you could incorporate the exploration of sounds and vibrations into their phonics work, or why not have a competition to see who can chant “aum” for the longest! You could experiment with other sounds too – take a deep breath in and ‘moo’ like a cow or ‘hiss’ like a snake. For each different sound, discuss where you feel the sensations of the vibrations in your bodies and don’t forget those long deep inhales and slow controlled exhales!



A small boy wearing a tie-dye t-shirt standing in a field blowing a dandelion.

Deep breathing is one of the most instantly calming strategies for children (and adults!) who are feeling overwhelmed by big feelings and emotions. 

When we are stressed, anxious, scared or upset, we tend to breathe shallowly. This prevents oxygen from getting to our brain, which then compounds the problem and leads to our thoughts and feelings spiralling out of control. When we breathe deeply, however, we are giving the oxygen the time to circulate around our bodies and get up to our brains, which is when it helps us to feel calm, happy, confident and relaxed. We can then think more rationally, and help ourselves to process our emotions within a calmer headspace. 

Deep breathing isn’t just for when you have overwhelming feelings though; scientific studies show that practising regular deep breathing can improve blood flow, detoxify the body, lower pain levels, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, increase energy levels and boost immunity. 

Here are three different breathing techniques that can be done either in nature if you have access to the subject matter, or with your imagination wherever you are, whenever you need it.

🌬 Dandelion - close your eyes, stand or sit up tall and send your shoulders back you can fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Hold a dandelion (the puffball kind) in front of you, take a deep breath in through your nose and blow out slowly but forcefully through your mouth. Keep practising the same breathing - in through your nose, out through your mouth until the dandelion no longer has any seeds left. 

🌸 Flower - take your nose close to a flower, close your eyes, sit or stand as tall as you can and take a deep breath in through your nose. Focus your attention on the smell of the flower

🪶 Feather - hold a feather close to your face, take a deep breath in through your nose and blow out slowly through your mouth. Your challenge is to keep the hairs in the feather moving for as long as possible using just one breath. The taller you stand or sit, the deeper you breathe in and the slower you breathe out, the longer you will be able to keep the hairs moving.



SKILLS DEVELOPED: Physical Fitness, Balance, Body Awareness, Breathwork, Co-ordination, Memory, Positive Thinking, Self-Esteem, Yoga/Emotion association, Self-regulation strategies

There’s nothing better than practising yoga outside! Grounding through your bare feet and hands, breathing in that glorious fresh air, feeling the breeze on your skin and listening to the buzzing of life around you.

There are many proven mental health benefits to yoga, each of them intensified by taking your practice outside and connecting with the earth beneath your feet. 

Below are three nature-themed stretches that each have their own affirmation. Practise getting into each pose, staying as still as you can, inhaling deeply, exhaling slowly and repeating the affirmation out loud.


two children standing in tree pose in nature.

Inhale as you bring your arms up above your head, exhale as you bring your arms down to prayer position in front of your chest. When you are ready, bring one foot up onto the other leg, either below the knee or above the knee - whatever feels comfortable for you (anywhere BUT your actual knee as that’s not good so good for our knees!). Don’t worry if you have to keep putting your foot down and trying again - when I first started practising tree pose I could barely hold it for 3 seconds without having to try again! Tip: focus your eyes on something still in front of you to help you balance. When you feel ready, try to bring your arms up above your head. Repeat out loud: ‘I am strong’

Repeat the above on the opposite leg, but this time with the affirmation ‘I am brave’.


Two children sitting in nature in butterfly pose

Begin in a seated position, with the souls of your feet together, interlocking your fingers and cupping them under your feet. Use the pressure of your hands to pull your spike straighter - sit as tall as you can and flap those butterfly wings (move your knees up and down). Inhale, exhale and repeat ‘I am kind’


two children sitting in nature in flower pose.

Begin in a seated position, with the souls of your feet together. Roll your outer thighs down, opening your hips and sitting up tall. Slide your hands under your ankles through the diamond of your legs, with your palms facing up. Lift your legs away from the floor and balance on your sitting bones. Keep your spine long and core engaged and relax your neck, shoulders and face. Inhale, exhale, and repeat to yourself ‘I am calm’. 

Thanks so much for reading! 

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