It’s Screen-Free Week. And KidsGardening is participating in this annual, international celebration when families, schools, and communities swap digital entertainment for the joys of life beyond the screen.

First, a question: Do you ever feel stressed out by your fast-paced life? If so, the kids in your life might too! Sadly, children these days report more anxiety, stress, and depression than in years past.

Now I am NOT trying to give you one more thing to worry about. That’s the last thing I want to do. Instead, I hope I can share a couple of super simple ways you and your kids—whether they are your own children or your students—can unwind together.

We all need opportunities to decompress from the pressures of our day. And many people turn to screens because they’re so readily available. We plop down on the couch and scroll through social media feeds or play video games. But an increasing amount of research is finding that television, video games, and advertising contribute to anxiety in children.

As a mom, I juggle a lot of responsibilities. And I have long known that as few as 15 minutes puttering around my garden will magically (although it’s not really magic, it’s science) wash away the day’s stress. I am now finding that my two-year-old son is benefitting emotionally from time in the garden each day. It’s become a fun way for us to spend some time together after work: learning, exploring, de-stressing, and all while growing food and flowers for our family.

Just being in the garden will have a number of mental health benefits. However, if you want to deepen the impact of this time spent in the garden, you can try the mindfulness activities offered below.

Mindfulness in the Garden

Mindfulness is a buzz word in the education world right now, as more and more teachers and parents understand it’s role in promoting social and emotional resilience in kids.

Writing for Greater Good Magazine, Linda Lantieri and Vicki Zakrzewski explain that mindfulness practices help, “students become aware of and then embody the connection between their emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” They are then, “better able to regulate their emotions, which then impacts things such as their behavior, stress levels, relationships, and ability to focus.”

Here are a few activities you and your children / students can do to reap even more benefits from your time in the garden. These have been adapted from a blog post by Jessica Knopke on SimpleFamilies.com.

Mindfulness Activities for the Garden:
  1. Blowing on leaves 
    Blow leaves off the palm of your hand. Does an maple leaf need a different breath than a locust leaf? This will help children to experiment with different intensities of breath.
  2. Anchoring to sounds 
    Listen for the subtle sounds of nature. It might be wind in the trees or the chirping of a bird–we can pause our brains and tune into the sounds that are present right now. How do these make you feel?
  3. Mindful eating
    Snack on something from the garden. How does it look? How does it smell? Is there a sound it makes while you chew? If you are picking it up with your hands, what does it feel like? Before you take that first bite, who can you thank for that food? The worms that nourished the soil, the sun for helping it grow, the rain for watering it, the gardener who tended it... Then chew that first bite really slowly.

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