Discover: Shinrin-Yoku and Nature Activities for Kids

Has anyone else suddenly been hearing people talk about Shinrin-Yoku (森林浴)? I googled it the other morning after noticing it popping on the news and in my Instagram feed. Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese practice that translates as “forest bathing” and encourages the practice of walking slowly in nature, taking the time to find one’s breath and center.

In an increasingly tech world, even our children are suffering from an extreme deficit of outdoor time. I’m sure you too have heard the always-depressing stats detailing how many of our children’s waking hours are spent in front of a screen. So often, we’re inundated with these dreary statistics but aren’t really given any good advice on how to work toward reversing the ever-growing proliferation of screens during our (and our children’s) days.

barley and birch 2016 shinrin-yoku - forest walk

When I started researching Shinrin-Yoku, my first thought was, “Ok. Here is a REAL answer” (and by the way, you don’t need a forest!). Here is something that has proven physical and psychological benefits…

The benefits of Shinrin-Yoku with children:

  • Decrease blood sugar levels
  • Increase immunity
  • Stimulate creativity
  • Helpt to develop our senses – our emotions, our intellect, even our spirit grow in response to the natural world
  • Cultivate an appreciation for nature
  • Teach the importance of silence and how to be alone with one’s thoughts.
  • Encourage curiosity and discovery

It also has a name. As insignificant as it may sound, being able to say, “let’s try Shinrin-Yoku” instead of “let’s do…something…outside” gives a specific direction and focus. It gives the tiniest bit of structure to an unstructured activity. It’s a great invitation to try something new, or for many, something old reimagined. Adults included! After all, the best way we can teach our kids to put down the tech and get outside is to DO IT OURSELVES (triple underlined!).

Help your kids develop an appreciation for nature with shinrin-yoku - the practice of forest bathing. | via barley & birch

Inevitably, for certain ages or kids, suggesting an activity that boils down to reflective time outside may invite the scowls, eye-rolls, and sighs.  Realistically, the chances of the “I’m BORED”s beginning 2 minutes into this activity are so frustratingly high. I think a great place to start with kids is with a modified version of the traditional practice – a loose translation that invites kids to explore nature and develop a relationship with their outdoor surroundings. Here are a few simple nature activities you can start with…

Simple Ways to Practice Dedicated Nature Time with Your Kids:

Want to go a little deeper? Richard Louv is a great champion of Children’s Nature Education and has written some awesome books about building connections between nature and children. Two of our favorites are  ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and ‘Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life‘ – a treasure-trove of good suggestions!

Five of our Favorite Nature Discovery Resources for Kids:

Looking for easy, but action-packed solutions for helping kids discover the joy of the outdoors? Check out a few of my favorite resources…

1. Mother Natured

  • When I’m in need of outdoor play inspiration Mother Natured is my go-to website for quickly finding engaging, creative children’s nature activities.

2. Little Oak Learning

  • Little Oak Learning – From the beauty-drenched brain of Jill Wignall, this site is full of printable activities so gorgeously illustrated and conceptualized that you’ll want to print copies out for yourself (no, seriously). From paper dolls and weather kits to field guides and activities that will help your children find natural rhythms (in nature and daily life). Every activity is an invitation to fall in love with the outdoors.

3. 1000 Hours Outside

  • 1000 Hours Outside is a website dedicated solely to encouraging quality family time spent outdoors. Their free printable trackers are a fantastic way to give kids a way to visualize and log outdoor time and keep up the motivation to get outside.

4. Tinkergarten

  • Tinkergarten offers expert-designed outdoor classes and activities to help kids ages 18 months to 8 years develop core life skills while enjoying healthy, fun, engaging experiences in the physical freedom of local green spaces. For those who aren’t in a city with local classes, their online community and free activity library are chock full of resources you can use to easily re-create the experience at home.

5. Wild Explorers Club

  • The Wild Explorers Club, a subscription-based adventure program for kids aged 6-12, includes weekly video assignments, a monthly print magazine, certificates & worksheets, and a free patch for each adventure level completed. This is one of my new favorite birthday gifts for kids (and follow them on Instagram for some beautiful outdoor inspiration!)

Have you tried Shinrin-Yoku? Have any ideas you’ve tried out and loved with your kids? Share them in the comments!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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