Back to nature: How to make the most of your outside space while self-isolating
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Social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic? There’s never been a better time to reconnect with nature in our own gardens. Gardening influencer Ellen Mary tells Hannah Stephenson how.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden, there’s lots of ways you and your family could enjoy it - and benefit from a wellbeing boost in the process.
Gardens can bolster wellbeing for both children and adults, says gardening writer, presenter and horticultural influencer Ellen Mary.
Ellen, who specialises in gardening for wellbeing, has just launched a 30 Moments In Nature challenge on her website (ellenmarygardening.co.uk), featuring activities to help people reconnect with the great outdoors.
“We all lead such busy lives, with everyday stresses of work, school and digital life, that ‘nature deficit disorder’ and even ‘plant blindness’ has become all too real,” she says.
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“There is nature everywhere, and spotting it, even in the most unlikely places, can give a much better understanding of how we are all connected - to nature, not our phones.”
Here, Ellen offers tips on how you and your children can reconnect with nature in your own garden...
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1. Garden tracing
This is an activity many of us took part in as children and it’s still really good fun, no matter what age we are. Children can learn about plants and trees in their garden, identify them and be outside away from computers and mobile phones. Studies have shown that walking among trees reduces levels of cortisol and can even boost the immune system.
Activity: Take a walk in your garden with some paper and a crayon. Trace the bark of a tree, if you have one, and a fallen leaf to stick on the paper by your tracing. Look closely at the tree, identify it, touch the bark and the leaves. Back inside, put it on your fridge. Each time you look at your tracing, remember how you felt in the garden, the smells and the air on your face.
2. Walk barefoot
Walking barefoot brings us into direct contact with the planet and allows us to absorb the natural energy the earth provides. This is known as ‘earthing’ and it’s said to have a host of benefits. Great on a warm morning in the garden.
Activity: Get your socks off! Put your shoes aside. Feel liberated by walking outside on the lawn or a soft outdoor surface with bare feet. Feel the natural negative charge from the earth being absorbed through the soles of your feet. Allow it to happen, accept it. Breathe deeply and relax.
3. Spot a star constellation
When we are busy looking down at phones and laptops, it’s easy to forget to look up. By looking up at the night sky not only is it a hub of fascination and awe but it’s also a relaxing activity before bedtime. Finding shapes in the moon and trying to spot star constellations can be a lovely way to switch off before a good night’s sleep.
Activity: Did you ever stare at the stars as a child and wonder what they are? Glistening in the sky, light years away. It’s really good fun identifying star constellations but if you can’t work out where Orion is, make your own shapes in the sky like a dot-to-dot drawing.
4. Sow some seeds
Sowing seeds is not only a great way to grow your own food, but also for children to understand where their food comes from. Great seeds to try with children are sunflowers, nasturtiums and microgreens, which grow really quickly.
Activity: Be mindful and sow some seeds. Before you do, feel the seeds in your hand. What is the texture, shape, size? Look close at the detail - does each seed differ? Smell them and if they are edible, taste them. Be marvelled at the way those tiny seeds become big fruits, vegetables or flowers.
5. See life beneath
Picking up a large stone from your garden, your children will be able to marvel at the life beneath. They’ll be fascinated by the woodlice, ants, worms and beetles. We forget that inner child as we grow up and life takes over.
Activity: Revisit those memorable moments with your children, lifting a stone in your garden and encouraging the children to stay inquisitive and keep looking.