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Improve your Children's Mental Health with These Eco-therapy Techniques


The average American spends 10 hours a day in front of a screen. And with more and more of us moving to urban areas, we’re more disconnected from our natural environment than ever before. 

The truth is, tuning into the rhythms of nature feeds our souls in ways that not only make us happier, but healthier. Spending time in nature is linked to both cognitive benefits and improvements in mood, mental health and emotional well-being. There are countless studies that prove it! 

It turns out, time in nature (or lack thereof) could be playing a key role in your children’s behaviour and development.A 2019 studyshowedthat green spaces near schools promote cognitive development in children and green views near children’s homes promote self-control behaviours. 



So it’s safe to say that we need to be making eco-therapy a priority if we want our children to thrive. This could include horticulture, time spent with animals, and wilderness excursions just to name a few.   

It’s recommended that we spend at least two hours a week in green and blue spaces to reap all the crazy benefits nature provides, but most of us live in residential areas without easy access to the ocean or hiking trails. And honestly, if given the choice, most children will choose YouTube over outside time!

So how in the heck are we supposed to make sure our children are getting their healthy dose of vitamin d when they’re glued to their screens?! 

Follow along for fun and practical ideas to reconnect with nature as a family and help improve your children’s well-being. 

Make Hiking into a game 

Any time spent outdoors is good for you, but areas with more biodiversity may be particularly beneficial for your children's well-being according to this study.  

Luckily Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz are home to some pretty spectacular beaches and state parks, from Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to Wilder Ranch State Park. There is definitely no shortage of beautiful green and blue spaces in our region.

Try to mark off at least two days a month to spend with your family in biodiverse spaces like these, whether you go for a hike or just sit in the shade of a Redwood and breathe in the fresh air together on a warm day- it’s well worth the investment into your family’s well-being. 

 To make days like these sound more appealing to your children, you can make a game out of it, like a scavenger hunt. Make a list of five to ten things the kids have to find on your excursion, like a yellow flower, or a rock that looks like a heart. The children will be more engaged with their surroundings and more likely to get their hands dirty as they scour for the items on the list.


Courtesy of: Blondes and Bagels

Don't forget to pack your Sling Backpack with your reusable water bottle, a camera, and some light snacks!




The next time your kids are playing in the backyard, encourage them to take their shoes off and go barefoot.

The act of walking outside barefoot is called “earthing” and results in a surprising amount of health benefits, including reduced stress and improved immune function. This is an easier eco-therapy method to incorporate if your kids already love to spend time outside. Just make sure to keep a bucket and towel by your hose so they can wash their feet off before coming inside!


Pack a Picnic and Head to the Beach

With the warmer months approaching we’ll be spending as much time as we can at the many beaches in Santa Cruz. Most children and tweens love a good beach day, so it’s a perfect opportunity for them to leave their phones at home for the day. You could offer a reward if they leave their phone at home, like getting takeout for dinner and letting them choose where you eat, for example.         

One of our favorite things to do as a family is packing a picnic when we go to the beach. You could stop at a local farmers market on the way, or gather an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies from your fridge at home. There's something about sharing food together, whether it be a large meal, or light snacks, that brings us closer together.  


Courtesy of: Amazon/ Vera Bradley 


Pack your cooler, get your Vera Bradley Straw Tote Bag ready with sunscreen and beach essentials, and you’re ready for a fun day of soaking up vitamin d with the family!



Check out this one-of-a-kind Big Wave Canteen, featuring a gorgeous image taken by Santa Cruz’s own surf photographer, Corey Wilson! 


Eat Meals Outside Whenever you can

After a long and drawn-out winter, we’ve been looking forward to having dinners outside again. As a busy family, enjoying a meal outside together is often the best part of the day. Not only are we catching up on how everybody’s day went, but we’re also breathing in that sweet fresh air and soaking up the sun!

Most of us work and spend the majority of our time inside, so it's nice to take advantage of the warm months in California and partake in alfresco dining while we can. 



Although there isn't much scientific research to prove it, many people report feeling more mindful and less stressed when they eat outside compared to eating indoors. 

This is a great ritual to practice with your children to help instil mindful and healthy eating habits. We recommend serving a lighter meal with a few tapa-inspired options to share and plenty of fresh, in-season vegetables on the grill.



Spending plenty of time outdoors reminds us that we are all part of something bigger, and gives us a fresh sense of perspective of our place in the world. Science has proven that at least two hours per week of quality nature time drastically improves our children's mental health, development, and overall well-being. 

It can be challenging to get our children to put their screens down, but by enjoying meals together outdoors as often as we can, making time in nature playful, and leaning into the things they already like doing outside, your children are much more likely to get their healthy dose of vitamin d.