I recently spent a heart-warming morning with my nephews and their families interacting with the natural world. The purpose was a photoshoot for use on our social media. It is part of our basic belief at Making Mindful Magic that being in nature offers all of us and especially children free, authentic, inspiring opportunities for mindfulness and that is reflected in the many experiences set in nature in our book, Making Mindful Magic.
From the moment we arrived, it was obvious that this was a place that the kids wanted to be! Immediately their attention to their surroundings was obvious, each one of them was alert to the possibilities around them and mindfulness was in action, there was no aimless wandering here! These children already spend a lot of time outdoors but they are certainly not jaded by their frequent exposure to nature and they clearly feel very at home here! It is easy to see that children and nature are very natural playmates and it takes little more than setting aside time and finding a location to watch the magic happen.
We had our photo schedule at hand but it became more and more apparent that the easiest way to get these shots was for us to work within the parameters of them being inspired and joyful by what surrounded them and how they interacted with their surroundings.
There is a clear synergy between kids and nature and for quite young children their attention span was remarkable. It seemed they could easily concentrate on one aspect of their surroundings at a time and certainly did not show signs of either boredom or distraction by the number of different opportunities around them. It seemed to me that their mindfulness ability was encouraged by just being in nature. Perhaps it’s the slow calm interaction of the wildlife with their surroundings? Perhaps it’s the gentle sounds one hears – the wind, the bird calls, the bubbling water? Perhaps it’s the pleasing interaction of the soothing colours of nature that work so effortlessly together to create the ever-perfect landscape? Who knows for sure but whatever it is, it’s very real.
A case in point was our need for some tree-climbing shots to be used with our tree climbing verse in Making Mindful Magic. We’d earlier scouted a couple of trees that we thought would be good but they had other ideas and immediately found better ones and spontaneously put their own plan into action! Another of the mindful experiences from Making Mindful Magic is ‘Follow a Bird’ and there was no need for prompting to get that shot either as the magic of ducks and water sprang to life! Some beautiful shots were the result where real inspiration, joy and satisfaction were evident on little inspired faces.
The reality was that we also needed some contrived photos that showed particular aspects of mindfulness that we want to promote but really it wasn’t hard to get them either. We interspersed those shots with ones that came more naturally from what they chose to explore and we loved the results. I can appreciate that you might think these kids were just naturally obliging. I’d say they are pretty grounded kids with equally grounded parents but there were naturally trying moments which were just accepted for what they were – ‘kids having moments’
If you’ve got some especially lively lovelies then try letting them loose to run wild for a while before you might think about encouraging them to focus on something in particular to foster some quiet, focused time. If you let them loose with your camera or even a magnifying glass you’ll be pleased at how focused and adept they can become at remaining with one task.
I believe every one of us seeks and finds solace in some quiet time and children are no different, especially when given the opportunity for time in nature to explore those things that will naturally hold their attention with awe – the leaves, the flowers, the treetops, the wildlife, the clouds…. all nestled amongst the sounds, sights and smells of nature. Give it a try – schedule it in as you would anything else in the family’s timetable. The rewards will be obvious and many.
I think you will find there a place to speak about gratitude, about calm and quiet, about patience and you’ll also be uplifted to see kids with genuine excitement in being in their natural world.