No Soap Required When Kids Drench Themselves
In The Forest With This Nature Walk Craft
By Lori Waryanka
June 16, 2021
“Forest bathing” touts benefits for the entire family, and providing a planned activity for the young ones while on that nature walk is a great way to destress your kids and help you to relax, too.
Tell the kids it’s time to take a bath, but instead of handing them a bar of soap and washcloth, offer them this cardboard vase craft. Let them soak in the great outdoors while you let nature do its thing.
Very little advance planning is needed for this inexpensive activity. You will need a piece of cardboard, a pencil, and some markers or crayons. You and the kids can be as creative or basic as you would like in drawing a vase or flower pot image on the cardboard. Little skill or exertion is needed for poking holes in the cardboard with the tip of a sharpened pencil. And that’s it!
The greatest task is finding that perfect place for your nature walk — the deeper into the forest, the better — where you can purposefully enhance health, wellness and happiness.
Forest vs Urban Walks
Lots of research has been done on the benefits of forest bathing, a term translated from the Japanese practice of Shinrun Yoku, according to The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
Studies show leisurely forest adventures as opposed to urban strolls result in:
- A 12.4 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol
- Greater decrease in blood pressure, heart rate and sympathetic nerve activity
- Improved mental performance and creativity
- Boosted immune functioning
Children and Outdoor Meditation
Yes, you can destress your kids with forest bathing because it goes hand-in-hand with meditation. Don’t worry! Out in the wilderness, there’s no need to get those preschoolers to sit in a cross-legged position with hands resting palms up and fingertips touching. Just gotta get them focused on the sights and sounds.
Paying attention to nature is a true form of mindfulness for children, as noted in a recent National Geographic publication that stresses the need for kids to spend more time outside.
In addition to improving cognitive development, there are also physical and mental health benefits. The National Geographic article offers a few suggestions on how to approach forest bathing with young children:
- Be flexible. Maybe don’t expect to be under a tree canopy for an hour with a preschooler. Try a 15-minute excursion at first.
- Draw attention to the sensory experience. Listen to the birds sing, hear the tree branches sway in the wind, touch the soft grass.
- Turn it into a game. Provide fun, loose structure to encourage kiddos to be more mindful of their natural surroundings.
Cardboard Vase Activity
This craft project just about meets the suggested guidelines for successfully distressing your kids. The best thing about it is that the cardboard is lightweight and can easily be toted through the woods by a tiny pair of hands — and you'll probably already be a bit weighed down by the backpack filled with water bottles, anyway! Don’t forget to pack a small pair of pruners to cut any branches or flower blooms that can’t be plucked easily.
Time shouldn’t be an issue since there won’t be a problem finding plenty of native flora to fill the holes on your cardboard vase. Many wildflowers are blooming now. We found numerous patches of wild phlox and honeysuckle on a recent bath time in the woods near our home. We even picked a few dandelions for our cardboard vase arrangement.
And if there’s no opportunity, or if you have limited time to take a forest bath, look to the backyard, a community park, grandma’s garden, or anywhere you have permission to take a few flowers — all perfect venues for this fun project. Don’t let location or lack of transportation stop you from helping the kiddos tackle this inexpensive and fun craft.
Repurposed cardboard, any size
Crayons or Markers
Pruners for cutting flowers and branches
Flowers, branches, ferns - just about anything that you find growing outdoors
How to Make a Cardboard Vase
- Grab a piece of plain cardboard from the recycling bin. A flap cut from a larger box would be a perfect size for preschoolers.
- Use a pencil to help the kiddos draw the vase or flower pot image on the cardboard.
- Choose colorful markers or crayons to trace over the outline, and maybe add a few decorations to the vase. Get as creative as you like!
- Use the pencil to poke holes through the cardboard in the area above where you drew your vase or flower pot. We made 8-10 holes, placing them no more than a couple of inches apart. The pencil punctures the material fairly easily. Make sure to push the pencil through to create a nice, round hole in which flower stems and branches can fit.