How Nature Can Help Kids Get Their Zzzs
By Sandi Schwartz
Having trouble getting your kids to sleep soundly? The bedtime battle is a real struggle for many families. It can help to use nature to create a calming bedroom space where your children can relax, unwind, and fall asleep easily without any fuss. Here are some ways you can incorporate nature into your family’s bedtime routine.
Nature Bedroom Décor
Consider hanging images of nature, such as trees or birds, on bedroom walls to create a tranquil atmosphere. Try choosing art that features patterns found in clouds, leaves, tree branches, flowers, shells, and feathers. Scientists have found these naturally occurring patterns—called fractals—are aesthetically pleasing and help reduce stress. Next, let nature inform the colors used in the kids’ bedrooms. According to color psychology experts, blue calms the mind and body, minimizes feelings of anxiety and aggression, and creates a sense of well-being. Meanwhile, green promotes serenity and is associated with wellness and healing. Neutral colors—tan, beige, ecru, cream, light brown, taupe, and gray—manifest an organic, earthy feeling that warms up a space. Of course, many types of animals bring joy and peace to children. Hang photographs and artwork of animals, especially animals in their natural environment; choose furniture containing animal motifs, or paint an animal mural on the wall.
Some sounds are clearly more relaxing than others. When we step outdoors and mindfully listen to nature, we often feel renewed. By the same token, playing recordings of nature sounds—birdsong, wind, rain, ocean waves, and trickling water—in kids’ bedrooms can reduce stress and anxiety, and also mask disruptive noises like traffic or airplanes.
The best nature sounds are those that provide a sense of natural space and mimic the biorhythms of an ecosystem like a forest. Loud screeching and croaking are just not going to result in the same sense of calm as the slow, rhythmic whooshing of running water or an ocean. So, stock up on nature music CDs or download some apps to help your kids relax at night. You can even record your own nature sounds the next time you go on a hike or to the beach.
Another way to get your kids ready to doze off is to try nature meditation. These visualizations use the imagination to engage one or more of the senses. Here’s a simple one to try: Ask your children to close their eyes and visualize the different colors of a rainbow. You can ask them to think about how each color smells, tastes, and feels. Another idea is to have them paint a nature scene in their mind, such as a sunset or jungle. If you need some guidance, search online for nature meditations, including Green Child Magazine’s guided meditations for kids.
Every child loves a good story before bedtime. As it turns out, reading is the best way to relax, according to a United Kingdom research study. Reading is a healthy distraction; as kids focus on listening to or reading the words, they feel calmer. Books also help our kids escape from the present moment into a world of imagination. A young reader can be so engrossed in a story that they go into a meditative state—great for dozing off. Additionally, bedtime stories bring you closer to your children, helping them feel safe and secure.
Nature-related tales are the perfect choice for bedtime. Kids can think about and visualize the beauty of the garden, beach, or other whimsical place they are listening to or reading about. With positive, colorful imagery swirling around in their minds, they are more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
Poetry can also do a wonderful job conveying the soothing experience of being in nature. Consider reading the work of famous nature poets such as Robert Frost and John Keats, or look for children’s nature-poetry books, including Handsprings by Douglas Florian or National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry by J. Patrick Lewis.
Sandi Schwartz is an author, journalist, and mother of two. Find out about her new book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer, at ecohappinessproject.com.