I love Autumn.

There are so many wacky and spiky things.

Everything looks a bit ‘alien’.

This space adventure has four fun, anti-anxiety tools (so you can all be as super chilled as these aliens).

And you can do it any time of year. It’s perfect if you have a young child who’s worried about school, a new sibling, or just when you have one of those ‘everyone’s feeling a bit irritable’ days.  

1. An Active Story

Active Stories is an idea covered by Laurence Cohen in The Opposite of Worry. Laurence says that when children concentrate on moving their bodies in a particular away, it helps to calm them – just like in Tai Chi or yoga. For children, an Active Story might involve walking on tiptoes, or making themselves really big to scare a make-believe character away. So perhaps you’re walking to school and your child is feeling really worried, one way to help is to make up an adventure where they move as part of the story (and I’ll give some examples in just a moment). This has worked wonders for us on the school run as an anti-anxiety tool.

2. Nature and the outdoors

Nature is naturally calming… Unless you stand on one of those dog poo bags and have the contents splurge out onto your shoes, which happened on one of our outings. Why do people bag them up and leave them on paths? Or dangle them in trees five metres from a bin? Does this happen in other countries too or just England?

Anyway, we took our Active Story outdoors.

We landed our spaceship on an alien planet (aka a woodland path on our housing estate!). The ground was very bouncy, so we spent some time jumping around and pretending like we were walking on the Moon. We met Spike the alien (a green, spiky conker shell). Here he is at a later picnic, with some eyes attached.  
My son was quite taken by him! Spike gave us advice like: “When we go through this bit, we need to make ourselves look really BIG, so that the bumblebats won’t bump into us.” And “Ooh, we have to sneak past a sleeping alien bear here. Be very quiet. Let’s tiptoe.” After creeping past the bear, my son wanted to run back and wake him up with lots of shouting (cue my sleepy alien bear voice). Turns out he wanted to invite the bear to a party, which inspired the next sections of our story!

3. Giggly games

If your child does want to wake the alien bear, this is also an opportunity for giggly chasing. Cohen recommends bumbling and being a bit useless when you chase to get the giggles going. So the ‘sleepy bear’ could bump into trees or even fall back asleep mid-chase. (And if you want more giggly game ideas, you can get my free e-book, ‘How to Get the Giggles’, with lots of games to help tackle phobias and anxiety – yes, I know, shameless plug).

4.  Sensory stuff

Sensory exploration helps us focus on the here and now, making it a great anti-anxiety tool. The first item to find was a present for Spike. “Sticks are really fun and you can do lots with them,” my son said, as he went off to find the ultimate stick. “Spike will love this!” he said when he’d found his perfect moss-covered specimen. We gathered party decorations, including dangling seeds. And selected party hats (leaves that we put on our heads). On the way home we found bowls (acorn cups) for our party picnic, along with crazy alien food to put inside. We also found a few more aliens and their boats (curled up horse chestnut leaves). Back at home – party time!  
We enjoyed adding Googly eyes to bring some of our aliens to life (and learned that play do or blue tack might be useful for securing them next time!). We tested whether our boats would float on water (they did, even when carrying small aliens). We looked at which aliens could swim and which sunk (luckily the ones that sank could breathe underwater). We had so much fun we have returned to this activity again and again (and different seasons bring different alien creatures!). This activity always puts us in a good mood. I love that it requires no prep and can be very child-led in the way that the story unfolds (for instance, the characters can be inspired by what you find, and by your child, which is helpful if you’ve had four hours sleep and your brain is struggling to make up a story!). A few extra ideas:
  • Create an alien lake Use an old washing up bowl or art tray and add alien ‘plants’ and creatures.
  • Make alien party hats Use recycled cardboard, and PVA/ strips of double-sided sticky tape to add natural materials
  • Make alien party music Tap sticks together, tape pine cones into boxes to make shakers, or put stones and acorns in plastic bottles.

So how about you?

What’s your favourite thing to do outdoors with your children? What helps your child with anxiety? And have you ever had handbag mulch (the result of mossy sticks, leaves and other items being snuck into your bag to take home)? I once found a small spider living next to my lip balm… now we take a cloth bag! Let me know in the comments below.
Mother and child hugging showing positive parenting and conscious relationships

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