By Sarah Heidtke, Master Gardener
We have heard about the mental and physical benefits of time spent in nature. Winter is a time when many of the colors of the warmer seasons are muted, and there is a hush as snow covers the garden and landscape. Mindfulness speaks to an intentional approach to experiencing our natural spaces – both outdoors and inside. We can do this in all seasons, but winter is a great time to slow down and focus before the explosion of sensory stimuli we anxiously await in spring.
Here are five ways to practice mindfulness in the garden with kids.
1. Get up close to different textures and take some time to really look. Ask your child partner what they see once the leaves have fallen and we can find the contrasts between the bark, stems, and other organic materials against the snow on the ground.
2. Continue on a walk to visit dormant perennials and bulbs you may have planted last summer and fall. Ask your child partner what they think is going on with the plants underground.
3. Calmly look around your garden. Do you see or hear signs of the creatures that spend the winter there, such as nests or tracks in the snow? What do you think it feels like for those creatures in their winter homes?
4. Find a quiet place to sit – on the ground or on a garden bench perhaps. Close your eyes and listen to the garden while taking some slow breaths in – counting 1, 2, 3 – and out – 1, 2, 3. Do this a few more times before continuing your mindful garden walk.
5. Color awareness: take some time to observe colors in your winter garden – maybe some red branches of a dogwood, or brown leaves, or even some faded yellow flowers. Can you see why some plants and trees are called evergreens? How do you feel when you look at the plants around you?
Winter weather making it difficult to get outside? We can practice mindfulness in our indoor gardens too.
- Take a slow tour of house plants, and pause to breathe deeply at each one. Ask your child partner for their observations of color, shape, or even what they would call the plant
- Plant a few seeds in a pot or tray and place in a warm, bright spot. Make a practice of visiting the seeds and any sprouts, and just taking time to observe what you see.
- Take some cuttings of plants – such as Trandescantia – and place in a clear glass or vase of water. Pay attention to any roots that grow and ask the child how this helps the plant.
Most importantly, mindfulness in our gardens and other natural spaces allows our children of all ages to slow down and practice awareness in a busy world. It’s okay if they find treasures or want to make a drawing along the way, but the focus is on the present – a good skill for gardeners of all ages!
And here are some books to read with your child gardener:
Sing a Season Song, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Lisel Jane Ashlock
If I Were a Tree, written by Andrea Zimmerman and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
(Making Tracks) Park by Cocoretto (Board Book)