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The outside world has been my playground, and the best playing to be had has been among trees. I love den building, tree climbing, fire lighting, stick whittling, chain-sawing, rope swinging and in general being active and ‘doing’ stuff.
However there is so much more to the woodland experience than doing.
Latest research from Japan has emphasised the massive health benefits to be gained from ‘being’ with trees and simply spending time with trees. The Japanese call it Shinrin-Yoku which translates as ‘forest bathing’.
Forest bathing calms the nervous system, reduces stress hormones and improves concentration and mental clarity. Ahh, that’s better. I’m feeling more relaxed just thinking about trees.
The aim of forest bathing is to use your senses to truly experience nature. Phones should be turned off, and ears should be turned on. Listening, wandering and observing are the only objectives.
As adults we need to learn how to ‘be still and simply be’ amongst nature and we need to help children develop this valuable skill too. No targets, no agendas, no tests…just a lovely tree bath.
Encourage children to truly observe their surroundings. Watch leaves fall or get up close and see how moss grows.
At Cool Canvas we design natural play spaces for all types of schools and nurseries. Very few of these schools have an area of forest. In fact most are in cities or large towns. So we make it our aim to bring as many trees as we can into schools.
We use alot of mountain ash and bamboo in large wooden planters and borders to recreate forest sounds and sights and give children the chance to be around trees. We also have spent time designing peace gardens and quiet reflective spaces where children can escape the hustle and bustle of the busy playground and take time to sit.
With unprecedented levels of mental health issues affecting today’s children we want to do our bit to help. Let’s let the forest back in so we can spend time with trees.