Shinrin-Yoku - Or Forest Bathing With Kids
Remember those long, drawn out childhood afternoons where you would 'play out' with your siblings or friends? Hours spent wandering amongst nature, discovering sunlit glades or rainbow coloured moss, with no thought of a mobile phone or games console. Do you ever feel pangs of guilt that your own child doesn't get enough opportunity for that kind of free-form ramble? Yeah, us too! As parents today it can be hard to give our kids those happy playdays outdoors and to switch them (and us!) off from technology for a while. The Japanese have come up with a solution - Shinrin-Yoku, or forest bathing.
In the 1980s the Japanese coined the phrase Shinrin (meaning forest) Yoku (meaning bath) to give some form and focus to mindful time spent in nature. The practice was established as a healthy and relaxing activity to do on a regular basis on your own, or with friends or family. It was also a move to encourage the Japanese to embrace and protect their native forest land.
Despite the new name, there's nothing new about forest bathing. It is simply mindful, quiet time spent in nature. You can slowly wander without purpose, or sit still. Whilst you soak in the peaceful atmosphere around you try to be in the moment and focus on what you’re experiencing - that is being mindful.
Depending on the temperament of your children, a peaceful, mindful moment of zen in a forest might not sound very child friendly! However no matter how full of crazy energy they are, you can help them to be in the moment, take a breath and appreciate their surroundings. They don’t have to be silent, they don’t have to be still, they just have to be guided to take in nature and focus on the forest. You can help them to do this by slowing down and drawing their attention to the small details around them - the Fibonacci spiral of a fern, a silvery trail left by a slug, the birdsong in the trees… even if they only manage a few moments of observation at a time it will help them (and you) to breathe deeply and relax. You might be surprised what they will open up and chat about when not distracted by toys and games too!