Nature Sit Spots for Healthy and Aware Children
Director of Life Rocks
So much of our modern lives is spent in a flurry of activity that mostly ignores the underlying rhythms of the natural world around us. In fact, so much of our time is spent in this active state of structured activity, that we exhaust ourselves. Time spent in Nature has been shown to automatically decompress the overactive human being. Passive time spent in Nature can lower anxiety, improve memory, regulate emotions, lower stress, improve connection and bring feelings of joy. The same is no different for your children. Humans spent millions of years evolving with Nature, and its textures, sights, sounds, animals and movement are what nourish our bodies. Certain things can not be achieved inside, and if you want to connect to a powerful way to get your dose of Nature, then you have to try a nature sit spot. “It's the magic pill if ever there was one...the place becomes your nesting niche, your study site, your tracking playground, and your retreat and renewal centre.” Says Jon Young, in Coyotes guide to connecting with Nature. Jon Young is a world-renowned naturalist, has studied and lived with many indigenous tribes, has a nature school and is a big advocate of the Nature sit spots practice. Some of the reported benefits of having a regular place in Nature where we go and sit and passively observe the natural world are:
Improved sensory awareness and sensory skills
Enhanced critical thinking
Better naturalist skills
Greater capacity for releasing emotions & negative thinking
Close encounters with wildlife and plants
A renewed sense of happiness
A developing sense of inner vitality
Greater peace & joy in daily life
A sense of connection to our species and the planet
Finding a sit spot is easy. Let it be somewhere that you can get to regularly, someone where that draws you in. But don’t be too fussy, either. Let your children find their own spot; this is half of the fun. Even in the backyard or a park, a sit spot can be easy to find. The main thing is that it is available for sitting in and somewhat convenient. Now, how do we do it? Well, find your spot, sit down, open up your senses and observe. That’s it! Then, repeat this regularly. What does it mean to open up the senses? Most of the time, our senses are operating in a subconscious background mode. We want to bring them forward a little.
Let's run through the senses now just like you would when you go to your sit spot. First of all, what do you feel? The hardness of the ground beneath you? The temperature of the air? The sunlight on your face? Notice all that you feel; let that sense of feeling become your reality. What about smell? Can you smell the earth? What does the air feel like as it enters your nose? What about sound? What can you hear? Listen as hard as you can! Relax your ears, and let in the most subtle of sounds. How many different things can you hear? What taste can you taste? Let the sense of smell and taste mingle. What would it be like to taste this forest or this particular landscape? What can we see? Unlike much meditation, allow your eyes to be relaxed and open, allowing whatever natural phenomena is occurring to happen around you, without focusing on it too much.
Having a dispersed and gentle awareness is key to picking up more and more in your sit spot area. So now you know how to do a sit spot! Applying this same logic to children can be tricky. Some more peaceful types of kids will love the idea, and will happily mellow out in their chosen spot for 5 or 10 minutes. Other kids may need to ‘gamify’ the experience to have any positive interaction with a sit spot practice to begin with. Turn the sit spot into a game of bush hide and seek for those more rambunctious kids, and just take ages to find them, giving them lots of sitting time. Sitting in Nature doing nothing will seem really weird to the mainstream, modern, city-dwelling humans – but it's good for us, and it may just change your life.
Young, J., Haas, E., & McGown, E. (2010). Coyote’s guide to connecting with Nature (2nd ed.). OWLLink Media. McCurdy, Leyla E., et al. “Using Nature and Outdoor Activity to Improve Children’s Health.” Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, vol. 40, no. 5, May 2010, pp. 102–117, jjewell.yukonschools.ca/uploads/4/5/5/0/45508033/using_nature_and_outdoor_activity_to_improve_childrens_health.pdf, 10.1016/j.cppeds.2010.02.003. Connecting Children to Nature - Asher Cloran