We all know fresh air is good for us and even a short walk can lift our spirits – think dappled sunlight, fallen leaves and the rustling of trees – but according to latest research, spending more time appreciating the natural world is a “green” prescription to good health.
In a report by the University of Essex for The Wildlife Trust, findings suggests that people experiencing problems such as anxiety, stress and depression, reported feeling: “Significantly better, both emotionally and physically, after taking part in outdoor nature conversation projects.”
To bring the concept of “green prescribing” home, here’s how to get the kids involved in nature-based activities and shine the light on a greener world…
1. Take time out from the school run to stop by the park
It may feel like an effort but saving some stale bread to feed the ducks on the way home, or lobbing their wellies into the back of the car for a splash through the puddles to release any pent-up energy will do you, and them, the world of good.
2. Give the kids a plant they can call their own
A spiky succulent might not need much love and attention (and isn’t very child-friendly), but taking care of a flowering bulb, watering and watching it grow or starting a herb garden is really easy. And you can always take inspiration from The Herbs children’s TV show and give them names such as Parsley the Lion and Dill the Dog.
3. Eye spy with my little eye
A fun way to get the kids into the garden is to make a list of things you can see – whether it’s something in the trees, a shiny garden tool or a creepy crawly, it’ll encourage them to explore. And if you’re short on outdoor space or it’s raining, it can always be things you can see from the window.
4. Leave food out for hedgehogs
Homing in on hedgehogs is easier than you think – they love leaves, insects and logs. Along with leaving out specialist hedgehog nibbles (which can be bought from wildlife food suppliers), they’re also happy with tinned dog food and crushed dog biscuits. Think of the excitement of coming across this little one first thing in the morning.
5. Introduce nature books to bedtime reading
Stirring their imagination with pretty pictures of butterflies, exotic birds, ladybirds, squirrels, trees and flowers will make the kids that more interested in what’s going on outside, and a great building block to identifying bird species and their squawks.
6. Sun, moon and stars
With the clocks going back this month and long, dark nights, getting the kids to do some star gazing and thinking about the planets and the shape of the moon will make them more inquisitive to learn more, and no-one’s ever too old for twinkling stars… we all love to dream.
7. Feed the fish
While most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a fish pond at the bottom of the garden, an aquarium or fish tank will bring stress-free pleasure to all the family. Easy on the eye and easy to maintain, appreciating tropical fish and supporting natural plant growth in an underwater landscape can teach kids a lot too.