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Ever notice that a trip to the beach, a hike or a picnic all tend elevate your mood?  Or perhaps you’re familiar with feeling “like a new person” just from taking a shower?

Nature (and yes, for all intents and purposes, shower water is still nature) seeks balance. All of nature, the trees, grass, water and animals have a natural vibration of peace.  So when we are in a natural setting our mood tends to settle in a place of contentment or happiness — especially for children.  The only times a trip outside will not make a child feel better are when the temperature is extreme, making them physically uncomfortable, or when other non-natural factors are involved: like the commotion of a party, the antics of other children on an outdoor playground or when physical fatigue sets in.

But in general, taking kids outside is a great way to help them recharge or elevate the mood of squabbling siblings or a cranky child.  Autumn is a great time to enjoy the uplifting spirit of nature as the temperature is usually kinder to our senses and the colors and smells are particularly vibrant.

Here are a few ways your whole family can get the most mood elevating benefits of a day outdoors.  Best of all, these suggestions are free or at a nominal fee.

1) Pack a picnic and head off to a local park.  Spread a blanket out in a quiet corner and enjoy healthy foods while you tell jokes, read stories or play tag.

2) Look for botanic gardens in your area.  Many are run by Universities or non-profit organizations so they are free or open to the public at a nominal charge.  Wander through the gardens with your children letting them set the pace.  Don’t forget your camera — you’re sure to create memories you won’t want to forget.

3) Check with your local rec center for organized hikes.  Some places will even do small night hikes with campfires and s’mores for the families.  There’s nothing like star-gazing on a crisp Autumn evening and eating a s’more to bring you right to your heart.

4) Get a map of local trails from your local park and rec center or check out the lists of national parks online — one may be closer than you think.  Take a family hike and enjoy the natural beauty of your community. Let the kids gather things they find to be beautiful to bring home and make a collage or picture.

5) Go camping.  Even if it’s in your backyard.  Spend a night outside with your children telling stories.  It’s amazing how much kids open up emotionally when they are outside — you will learn a lot on a family camping adventure.

6) If the weather outside is frightful and the kids are young enough, draw a warm bath for them, put on a nature CD, put a couple of “child safe” potted plants around the tub and sip cocoa with your child while reading their favorite book — the water and plants will provide enough nature to calm a cranky child or wash away a bad day.

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