Nature is hugely beneficial for our mental health and research shows ‘spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing’.
On the theme of 'anxiety', this year's Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 15 to 21 May.
Nature connectedness is associated with lower levels of poor mental health, particularly lower depression and anxiety.
Whether you live in the city, close to forests or the coast there are a multitude of ways to explore nature around you. We’ve put together some great ways to connect with nature with the whole family.
Pick a clear night, wrap up warm and venture out into the garden or further afield. See how many different stars, constellations and planets your little astronomers can discover - this app is great for helping to identify them and you may even spot the International Space Station! Regardless of whether you see much, the kids will love being out in the open and under the stars so remember some blankets and perhaps a flask of hot chocolate to keep things cosy.
2) Follow a woodland trail
Walking in the forest is a great way to unwind while exploring some of England’s most beautiful habitats. All those trees are ideal for a game of hide and seek or den building. Check out the best places near you with Forestry England, including easy access trails which are suitable for pushchairs, meaning the littlest adventurers can nap on the go or rest their legs after all that exploring.
Turn your next walk into a proper family adventure and let your little explorers be pirates for the day, searching for treasure using a GPS device. The National Trust have various locations where you can search for geocaches across the UK.
4) Be mindful in nature
When you are next out with the family, take a moment to be mindful in nature. Find things to see, hear, smell, taste and touch, like grass under your feet or the feeling of rain and sunlight. It’s a great way to be present, calm and can help children appreciate the beauty of nature.
5) Help the bumblebees
Planting helpful seeds in your garden is a great way to teach children the importance of looking after our planet. Planting plenty of bee friendly flowers or a mini wildflower garden will provide pollen and nectar throughout spring and summer which the bees will love.
Why not see what your little adventurers can find on your next family trip to the beach? Breathe in the sea air and bring home treasures like smooth stones and shells which can be turned into mini works of art or kept as mementos of a lovely day out. Don’t forget a bucket to collect your finds. According to research carried out by the National Trust, a walk by the coast helps you sleep longer - it's a win all round!
7) Grow your own butterflies
Did you know, butterflies love muddy puddles too? They will often be found feeding from them, taking in salts and minerals from the soil. You can buy kits to grow and release your own butterflies at home and it’s a great exercise to teach the life cycle of a butterfly to children. The whole process takes a few weeks and your little ones will love releasing the butterflies into the wild.
8) Nature crafts
Let nature inspire your children's creativity and get them to draw or paint animals, birds or nature scenes after walks. You could do this from photographs taken when you’re out and about or even better, take art materials with you and create a masterpiece on the go. You could even use things you find on your adventures to add to artwork like leaves, twigs and feathers. Make sure to bring plenty of snacks to help keep the creative juices flowing!
9) Make your own bird feeder
Encouraging birds into your garden is a lovely way for children to identify different bird species. Making your own bird feeder for the garden or to hang outside a window is a great activity to do with your little birdwatchers and they’ll really enjoy watching them flock to it. We love this bird kebab for an alternative treat for our feathered friends.