5 Ways to Bring Nature into Playtime: The Biophilia Effect for Kids!

May 8, 2018

The childhood capacity to play creatively helps kids learn how to solve problems more effectively. Children develop their motor and mechanical skills, as well as planning skills and teamwork. The fact that many of our children now spend little time playing outdoors, growing up instead with commercial toys, video game consoles, computer games, and television prevents them from learning practical things in such a simple and joyful way as playing creatively in nature. Spending more time in nature or in a garden can bring this aspect back into the development of our children.

Spending time in nature can also significantly help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Richard Louv, a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post, speaks of the “Ritalin of nature” and advocates that children be treated with time in nature instead of with medication. But even for children without ADHD, the effects of being in nature boost attention and concentration.

Patrik Grahn—professor in environmental psychology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences—and his team compared children in two kindergartens. One group played regularly on a playground that was mostly paved over, had few plants, and was surrounded by high-rise buildings. The other playground was in the middle of woods and meadows, bordering an overgrown orchard with old fruit trees. The children played there in almost any weather. Professor Grahn showed that these children exhibited better physical coordination and significantly better concentration skills in comparison to the children going to a playground with less nature.

Children’s ability to communicate also increases, as the researchers from the University of Illinois found in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. They also proved that symptoms of restlessness and hyperactivity can be alleviated even in ADHD patients by regularly playing in nature. I recommend the following to parents and teachers who wish to improve their children’s attention, communication skills, and concentration:

  • If possible, try to set up your children’s playroom/bedroom in a room that has a view of nature.
  • Motivate children to play outside in green surroundings whenever possible—even in the rain or snow!
  • Be an advocate for natural schoolyards at your children’s school. It is especially important for the recovery of the child’s ability to concentrate and interact.
  • Plant and care for trees and other vegetation at home, or work with your landlord to establish a community garden in your apartment area.
  • Get creative and make toys and other crafts from natural “supplies” from nature, such as this gourd music maker:

Musical Instruments from Gourds: Here’s How to Do It!

Dried gourds from your garden—whether short and spherical, long and cone-shaped, or those with a huge, bulbous, resounding body—make excellent rattles for children. Any variety of bottle gourds, also known as calabashes, is good for making a rattle.

Harvest the ripe calabashes in autumn. Now let the spongy flesh inside dry up and shrink. To do this, hang the calabashes at home in a way that allows sufficient air circulation around them; above a heater is particularly suitable. Drying is best done during the cold season, when home heaters are on, since low humidity is important for success. The calabashes must not touch one another, for this encourages decomposition.

During drying, it is hard to avoid a slight mold coating on the shell. This can be regularly wiped off with a cloth. You only have to take care that the gourd doesn’t get soft or rotten in spots. Occasionally it is possible to keep the calabash entirely mold-free by scraping off the outermost skin early in the drying process. Once the fruit is dried, the rattle is ready. The fruit flesh inside is sufficiently dried and shrunk so that the seeds are now free in the resulting cavity and will rattle when shaken.

Of course, calabashes can be further crafted into more sophisticated musical instruments, such as the finger piano (kalimba), which children especially like. If you enjoy working with your hands, bongos or a sitar—an Indian string instrument—can also be created from bottle gourds, as these offer an optimal resounding space. There are also types of gourds with very long, narrow fruits that, after drying and scraping, can produce a didgeridoo with proper bass and rich overtones. The Australian Aborigines traditionally made didgeridoos from branches and trunks of eucalyptus trees that were naturally hollowed out by termites in the wild.

Children will love to play instruments that they watched growing in the garden. This creates a connection that is so much more valuable than any store-bought rattle or toy drum. Other items of daily use can be produced from gourds, such as bottles, spoons, pitchers, dolls, ornamental objects, and many others. There is no limit to your creativity, and the internet is full of instructions for the use of calabashes as musical instruments and utensils.

Born in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. The author also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

Clemens G. Arvay

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A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

A Nature Meditation for Better Focus A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

  1. Find a quiet spot in nature or in your garden where you don’t feel observed. If you choose a forest, look for a hiding place or a protected area. A high boulder, hill, or mountainside also works well for meditation.
  2. Find a sensory impression that appeals to you and generates positive feelings, ideally one that fascinates you. Either a sound you hear, an object that appeals to you and you can hold in your hand, or maybe something else that you can see but not touch, like rays of sunshine cutting through the trees or a line of ants hiking across the forest floor.
  3. Concentrate completely on your nature object. How does it feel? Notice the details. Get into your sensory perception and concentrate only on this perception. Try to put other sensory impressions in the background.
  4. Try to assign your sensory impression an emotion. How does it feel in your mind? What does it remind you of?
  5. Invite these feelings without forcing them. After a while, redirect your attention more and more to these feelings and toward your inner self. Do this knowing that your nature object triggered these feelings in you and represents itself in this way inside you.
  6. Once you feel that your meditation is complete or that you can no longer maintain your concentration, you can thank your nature object with an inner or outer gesture and gradually direct your attention to other stimuli in your environment, one by one, until you see nature as a whole again.

Excerpted from The Healing Code of Nature: Discovering the New Science of Eco-Psychosomatics by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens G. ArvayHealing Code of NatureBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

Buy your copy of The Healing Code of Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

How to Breathe With Your Whole Body

Blog header - How to Breathe With Your Whole Body Sounds True blog

Spending time in the woods—or shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”)—has been proven to significantly strengthen our immune system and increase our overall happiness. The forest air triggers our bloodstream to produce 40 percent more natural killer cells, which help fight harmful viruses, bacteria, and other illnesses. The tradition of forest bathing goes back a long time in Japan’s folk medicine, but it has its longest history in China and Taiwan and has been called senlinyu there for centuries.

Ancient knowledge about healing from nature is also found in traditional Chinese medicine. Numerous exercises from qigong are designed to “absorb the chi of nature” and are carried out mainly in forests or green areas with trees. Even the qigong masters of the past apparently knew that nature not only heals in the form of plant- and mineral-based pharmaceutical substances, but also by a person simply being present in a green space and breathing. In qigong, absorbing the chi of nature is always associated with breathing techniques.

Xiaoqiu Li, a two-time Chinese state champion in wushu (traditional Chinese martial arts), taught me the following exercise for “whole-body breathing.” This specific exercise helps you to take in the healthy forest air quite intensely and to release old air and harmful substances very consciously. You will especially feel the purifying effects of this exercise in your body if you are a smoker or live in a polluted city.

Look for a place in the woods that appeals to you and that has an even surface to stand on, and then follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and as parallel to each other as possible, with your knees slightly bent and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. “Open” your chest cavity by lifting your arms up in the air away from your body, in the form of a circle overhead, as if you were a tree revealing its mighty crown to the sky. Take a deep breath in while doing this, starting in your stomach and continuing to fill up your chest with air.
  3. When your arms meet over your head, guide them down in front of your body, holding them together and parallel to each other. Simultaneously begin to breathe out, making fists with your hands while squatting down.
  4. At the end of these movements, slowly press your elbows against your body at stomach level. This pressing of the elbows and curving of your body help your lungs to empty themselves entirely.
  5. Repeat these movements slowly and mindfully and try to make everything as smooth as possible.

Excerpted from The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens Arvay - The Whole-Body Breathing Exercise Sounds True BlogBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

 

Summer Super Sale - The Biophilia Effect

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect at your favorite bookseller!

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5 Ways to Bring Nature into Playtime: The Biophilia Ef...

The childhood capacity to play creatively helps kids learn how to solve problems more effectively. Children develop their motor and mechanical skills, as well as planning skills and teamwork. The fact that many of our children now spend little time playing outdoors, growing up instead with commercial toys, video game consoles, computer games, and television prevents them from learning practical things in such a simple and joyful way as playing creatively in nature. Spending more time in nature or in a garden can bring this aspect back into the development of our children.

Spending time in nature can also significantly help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Richard Louv, a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post, speaks of the “Ritalin of nature” and advocates that children be treated with time in nature instead of with medication. But even for children without ADHD, the effects of being in nature boost attention and concentration.

Patrik Grahn—professor in environmental psychology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences—and his team compared children in two kindergartens. One group played regularly on a playground that was mostly paved over, had few plants, and was surrounded by high-rise buildings. The other playground was in the middle of woods and meadows, bordering an overgrown orchard with old fruit trees. The children played there in almost any weather. Professor Grahn showed that these children exhibited better physical coordination and significantly better concentration skills in comparison to the children going to a playground with less nature.

Children’s ability to communicate also increases, as the researchers from the University of Illinois found in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. They also proved that symptoms of restlessness and hyperactivity can be alleviated even in ADHD patients by regularly playing in nature. I recommend the following to parents and teachers who wish to improve their children’s attention, communication skills, and concentration:

  • If possible, try to set up your children’s playroom/bedroom in a room that has a view of nature.
  • Motivate children to play outside in green surroundings whenever possible—even in the rain or snow!
  • Be an advocate for natural schoolyards at your children’s school. It is especially important for the recovery of the child’s ability to concentrate and interact.
  • Plant and care for trees and other vegetation at home, or work with your landlord to establish a community garden in your apartment area.
  • Get creative and make toys and other crafts from natural “supplies” from nature, such as this gourd music maker:

Musical Instruments from Gourds: Here’s How to Do It!

Dried gourds from your garden—whether short and spherical, long and cone-shaped, or those with a huge, bulbous, resounding body—make excellent rattles for children. Any variety of bottle gourds, also known as calabashes, is good for making a rattle.

Harvest the ripe calabashes in autumn. Now let the spongy flesh inside dry up and shrink. To do this, hang the calabashes at home in a way that allows sufficient air circulation around them; above a heater is particularly suitable. Drying is best done during the cold season, when home heaters are on, since low humidity is important for success. The calabashes must not touch one another, for this encourages decomposition.

During drying, it is hard to avoid a slight mold coating on the shell. This can be regularly wiped off with a cloth. You only have to take care that the gourd doesn’t get soft or rotten in spots. Occasionally it is possible to keep the calabash entirely mold-free by scraping off the outermost skin early in the drying process. Once the fruit is dried, the rattle is ready. The fruit flesh inside is sufficiently dried and shrunk so that the seeds are now free in the resulting cavity and will rattle when shaken.

Of course, calabashes can be further crafted into more sophisticated musical instruments, such as the finger piano (kalimba), which children especially like. If you enjoy working with your hands, bongos or a sitar—an Indian string instrument—can also be created from bottle gourds, as these offer an optimal resounding space. There are also types of gourds with very long, narrow fruits that, after drying and scraping, can produce a didgeridoo with proper bass and rich overtones. The Australian Aborigines traditionally made didgeridoos from branches and trunks of eucalyptus trees that were naturally hollowed out by termites in the wild.

Children will love to play instruments that they watched growing in the garden. This creates a connection that is so much more valuable than any store-bought rattle or toy drum. Other items of daily use can be produced from gourds, such as bottles, spoons, pitchers, dolls, ornamental objects, and many others. There is no limit to your creativity, and the internet is full of instructions for the use of calabashes as musical instruments and utensils.

Born in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. The author also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

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“Cranky” Is a Perfect Word

Dear Sounds True Friends,

“Cranky” is a perfect word. It feels like it sounds; the way it forms in your mouth fits the emotion. It’s perfect for that place between truly sad and properly angry, for times when we ought not to get so upset about trifling things, but we can’t help it. At least, not at first. 

We’re allowed to be sad when hard times come. We’re allowed to be angry in the face of real injustice. But the papercuts of life? The whacked elbows and burnt toast, the stolen parking spots and somebody-took-the-last-cookie days? Not so much. 

We’re supposed to take those moments in stride. We’re supposed to maintain our equilibrium. But moods are unruly and feelings don’t like to be bossed around. “Cranky” is the perfect word for those times when we feel resentful, irritated, and annoyed, but we know our cause isn’t especially sympathetic. When Murphy’s Law strikes, and we’re not yet ready to laugh it off. 

I’m supposed to be patient and mature at times like these, but I can be a great big Crankypants. Knowing I’m not supposed to feel cranky only makes me more cranky. Next thing you know, I’m spiraling. (I’m probably the only one …)  

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I wrote Cranky Right Now to give kids, parents, families, and teachers a way to talk about cranky times. and especially, a way to laugh about them. Illustrator extraordinaire Holly Hatam’s hilarious illustrations bring the magic. I hope you’ll giggle along with the vexed heroine of Cranky. It’s actually the first step forward. It’s easier to spot the absurdity in someone else’s cranky fit than our own, but the lessons still sink in. Humor is a powerful antidote to being a Crankypants.

 

cranky right now 2

Sometimes simply having that perfect word, “cranky,” in our arsenal helps. When we can recognize, “Hey, I’m not actually deeply upset right now; everything’s more or less okay; I’m just cranky right now, and it will pass,” we’re already halfway home. 

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Yours in absurdity,

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julie berry JULIE BERRY is the author of many books for children, including Wishes and Wellingtons, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, and Happy Right Now. Her novel Lovely War was a New York Times bestseller, and The Passion of Dolssa was a Printz Honor title. Three things that make Julie cranky are paperwork, chewed pens and pencils, and mornings that come too soon. She lives with her family in Southern California. Learn more at julieberrybooks.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cranky book cover

Learn more and buy now

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Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

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