A blog from Nature Nutty Mummy beautifully relating her experience of adopting two little nature-shy children and watching them, step by step, grow into children free, confident, connected to nature and excited to be outdoors.

In the past year my husband and I were lucky enough to adopt two amazing children. We’ve always been outdoorsy people (well I have and my husband comes along for the ride!) and my career is all about inspiring people to get outdoors and connect with nature, so I was very much looking forward to doing loads of fun outdoorsy nature stuff with my own little ones.

Our children have always enjoyed being outdoors. In fact the first day we met, they dragged us outside into their foster carer’s garden to play - not that we took much dragging! In the weeks after they were placed with us we spent lots of time outside bonding as a family and I honestly think this really helped us to connect as a family. We played endlessly in the garden and made bug homes, dens, wild art, fed birds, brought up butterflies and released them.

We took part in the Wildlife Trust’s 30 days wild and the National Trust’s 50 Things campaign and they enjoyed having a go at so many fun activities they had not tried before. Some they didn’t enjoy straight away, but now I can’t stop them from doing it! I’ll never forget the first time I encouraged them to do a barefoot walk.

We were only in the garden, but they looked positively scared at the thought of taking their socks off and walking on the grass in their bare feet! Once they tried it, the loved it, and the more they did it, the more they loved it, and I watched their confidence grow as they walked on difference surfaces with their bare feet, their senses coming to life with every step.  Before I knew it they were doing barefoot walks wherever we went, including beaches and National Trust properties with barefoot trails set up. Now I have all on getting them to put their shoes on to go in the garden – even in winter!   

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It was a similar situation with bug hunting. To begin with they really were scared for anything that flew, fluttered, slithered or crawled, but gradually I was able to introduce them to the different creepy crawlies in our garden and they plucked up enough courage to hold some of them. Once the fear had gone I saw wonder and amazement on their faces, and they started taking themselves off to hunt for bugs. A defining moment was seeing my little girl holding and releasing every butterfly we had raised with the biggest smile on her face.

We took the children to local green spaces, woodland and country parks to play, feed and watch the wildlife. As well as a strong connection to us the children developed a strong connection to these places, and our special places became theirs.

Now, the first thing my little boy asks when I pick him up from nursery is where we are going that afternoon, often requesting a specific park or woodland, much to the jealousy of his sister who has to stay at school all day.

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Most of the time I don’t think about it, being close to nature is just a normal thing to us. But sometimes I catch my kids doing something that they would never have done when they first came to us, and not only doing it, but doing it with a massive, genuine, ear to ear smile on their faces! Things like jumping in muddy puddles, climbing trees, holding bugs and getting their hands (or indeed their entire body!) covered in mud were all things the kids shied away from at first, but now they love nothing more!  One example of this was while we were waiting in the queue to go through the school gates on the morning of their Christmas Party. My little girl was dressed in her favourite party dress and new Christmas cardigan, looking an absolute picture. Then, for no apparent reason, she walked onto the grass and lay down in the mud! Yes she LAID DOWN! I couldn’t stop myself from asking her what she was doing in her pretty party dress. Her response was simply to shrug her shoulders and say ‘I don’t know Mummy’. But I knew, she was seeking to connect with nature in a way that was simple and straight in front of her, and deep down I was so proud of how far she’d come from the little girl who would scream uncontrollably when she got a speck of dirt on her finger or a tiny flying insect on her arm!

When, after another similar experience shortly after this, I took the time to cuddle her close and explain why I was so proud. She laughed and I could see pride on her face too. She was obviously pleased she enjoyed doing these things now.

When I watch them absorbed in outdoor play, I see two confident, happy children with wonderful social skills and vivid imaginations. I know this is not all attributed to their time spent outdoors in nature, but I believe it has played a huge part.

There have been so many times recently that I’ve observed them playing with other children and something occurred to me. They may be amongst the smallest children in the woodland or play space, but they can climb the highest with the biggest smiles on their faces, balance the farthest with confidence and concentration, and laugh the loudest on the coldest day.  For me these skills are far more important for pre-school children than whether they can write all their numbers or read all their letters, and that is why I’ll always be their nature nutty Mummy!

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