How to teach your kids respect for nature
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your kids is to take them out into nature.
I spent much of my childhood immersed in nature. All of the games we created as kids took place in the forest near my childhood home.
Now that I live in a city I crave that quiet time that you can only get in nature.
Afterwards I always feel recharged, calmer and more reverent for this beautiful planet we get to make our home on.
It might sound cheesy but it's true.
Sometimes it's hard to get kids excited about nature, the draw of devices is strong these days and if they aren't used to going out into nature regularly they won't know the benefits it can bring them.
The key is to make it fun for them, really fun!
It helps to have an activity or a challenge to get them really excited and engaged in nature.
A wonderful and meditative activity to do with kids of all ages is to help them create their very own nature mandala. It provides an opportunity for them to go on a little treasure hunt, it can be an opportunity for learning about plants, what to touch and what not to touch and at the end of it they will have a beautiful and impermanent piece of art.
When I teach kids about nature mandalas we start off talking about the purpose of a mandala.
It's a symbol derived from Hinduism and Buddhism which represents the universe.
It can signify balance and its creation is used as a meditative practice.
Sometimes with older kids we talk about the notion of impermanence, which can be exemplified by the Tibetan approach to creating Mandalas with sand, meticulously for days and then destroying them when they're finished.
There's a beautiful lesson infused in this- the idea of impermanence or non permanence or non attachment to material things. You can talk about the idea of things constantly changing for good or bad and how it is easier to approach life with a sense of non attachment because we know that things will continue to change forever. This can be a bit of a heavy idea for some kids so make sure you focus on the positives.
You can even tie in the changes in nature, referencing them as you collect the items for your mandala.
For younger kids you can focus on the physical creation of the mandala.
Look for 4 or 5 difference items to collect and arrange in rings.
I made two different mandalas as examples.
The first one was much less beautiful than the second.
The creation of your mandala has a lot to do with where you're creating it.
If you're taking a neighborhood walk it might be a good idea to teach your kids to not take flowers from your neighbors!
I collected a few different things that I could find for mandala #1. I wasn't in the most interesting or diverse area when it came to the plants and things I could collect. The leaves you see there looked like a great addition, but they were prickly! So watch out for prickly, or stingy things!
This was the first mandala. Interesting enough but not exactly beautiful!
The second mandala was much better because it was made in a little orchard with more flower varieties and even edible things!
Something that I noticed as I created this mandala was that I was choosing things all in the same color family. I also realized that you could make a mandala based on things that smell good (rose petals, lilac, jasmine) or you could make it completely edible (blueberries, cherries, apples).
It all depends on where you are in the world, what kind of nature is around you and how much time you are willing to spend scavenging the perfect materials for your mandala.
In the end this what the mandala I was happiest with.
It was a little bit messy because I was fighting with the wind to make it stay, but in the end I had to just accept that it might not be perfect. Afterwards I ate the blueberries and left the rest for someone to see and hopefully be inspired by.
Now get out there and create your own nature mandala, whether you have kids with you or not- I promise it's a beautiful meditative and rewarding experience!