Nurture in Nature Program
Accessing nature is vital to the mental health of young children and caregivers, particularly those overburdened by isolation, stress, and poverty.
Initially funded by the California State Parks Foundation, Nurture in Nature has been designed and implemented to assess the impact of nature outings on the mental health of under resourced children and caregivers, particularly those identifying as Latinx and having an annual income of less than $25,000.
We have created outings catering to children and caregivers who would not otherwise experience a similar nature experience due to language and transportation barriers, and a limited awareness of parks as a community resource.
Within a state park setting, all parent and child activities facilitated in both English and Spanish, aim to focus on the positive impact nature can play in mental health by decreasing parent-child stress, improving the parent-child bond, and enhancing feelings of connectedness to nature. With the guidance of an individual therapist, caregivers practice parenting and play therapy strategies to inspire moments of parent-child connection through shared curiosity and awe.
The most impactful activity thus far has been a mindfulness hike, an intervention designed according to the unique developmental needs of the children, and incorporating somatic therapy strategies and nature education components. Preliminary results of IRB-approved pre- and post-surveys reveal that caregivers are in fact experiencing a decrease in stress level in the parent-child relationship, an improvement in the parent-child bond, and improved feelings of connection to nature by experiencing respite, support and connection to other caregivers and their families. We are continually inventing and reinventing ways for us to incorporate nature as a resource for the support of children and families' mental health and wellness. We trust that these experiences will stay with our families and that they might continue to seek out these places as a refuge and a resource for healing and for wellness.
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