As summer is coming, we all want to spend more time outside. Does it happen to you that you get really tired of the local playground? We have all been there. Make your urban green spaces work for you and give you the variety you need!
Here are 10 tips of what you can do to connect yourself and your children to the nature around you without going far afield, there are plenty of things you can do right on your doorstep!
- Get involved with your local greenspace or park – mostly, these places are run and looked after by the council or, if you have local green space enthusiasts, there might be a volunteer-led group that tends to it. Do some research and get pro-active: there are always things to do which the children will love and will make you feel more part of a community. Think litter-picking, weeding, planting…getting mucky. Mostly you will find that those groups welcome new and creative ideas for the Park, too. Did you always want to see that old fence painted in a colourful new way, do you fancy trying out building willow structures, or install a piece of art somewhere? If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Find some like-minded people and take on a little project in a public green space. We all love little jobs and making a positive change to the community green, don’t we?
- Get up early one morning, with the children, and get outside, enjoy the silence of the empty streets, listen to the early morning birdsong, watch the sunrise, notice things that are different in the morning hours, or do some exercise. It will make you and the children feel great for the rest of the day!
- Be open-minded and let the children lead you to their favourite green space, it might be their favourite climbing tree, the biggest puddle for jumping or the best hedges for hiding in. Go with them and discover their little world, appreciate their space and let go of fears of getting dirty, gaining a scratch or the need to hurry on to an appointment.
- Notice wildlife around you – tadpoles or frogs in a pond, birds or little critters. There are always animals to discover, however built up your area might be!
- Have a think about what plants are around you and read up on which ones you can eat or use for making foods and other nice products. Did you know that daisies can be used to make daisy oil and salve, and that it has similar healing properties to Arnica?
- Did you know that dandelion leaves make for a tasty salad, nettles are great in soup and wild garlic is tasty as a pesto? Elderflowers make a fresh cordial and lavender can be used to make body-scrubs and you can flavour sugar with it! You and your children will love using the flowers and grasses they pick in a different way! Wild foods and homemade products are so good for you!
- Discover new paths, wander down streets you haven’t been down before, see where you end up and talk about what you notice about the new places. Similarly exciting is walking familiar paths and noticing the seasons change in the trees and flowers!
- Take playdates outside and take a picnic. Notice how children are so much happier when they are outside and there are no toys to argue over. Come rain or shine, there are always fun things to do outdoors, just remember to bring the right clothing.
- Collect things and make some nature crafts! This might be flowers or leaves, sticks or things like bottle tops or stones. No need to buy a full art-kit when you can turn nature and trash you find in the streets into art projects!
- Pack your tent and sleeping bags and head out of town, away from the city lights, into the wild. You do not need to go far. A slight change of scenery will make the whole family feel great. Children tend not to appreciate big travels and holidays in distant destinations. Make your back garden or the campsite out of town your destination. Even if it’s just for one night!
- When it comes to Christmas or birthday presents… prioritise outdoor toys: a bike, a skateboard, scooter…anything that has wheels really. This will get you all go out and be active in your immediate surroundings! And why not plan an outdoors party for the next children’s birthday, too!
Whatever you chose to do outdoors, take time with your children, maybe even make the point of leaving your phone at home, and let them be your inspiration and teachers!
And if the list above is not enough to get you out, here are 10 benefits of children exploring the outdoors:
Being in nature improves children’s cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills!
Children can concentrate better after playing and being in nature!
Nature helps with everyday stresses in a children’6 life and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the exposure to nature, the greater the benefits.
Children with a lot of contact with nature score higher in tests of concentration and self-discipline.
Play in nature helps motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility and they get sick less often.
Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children.
Outdoor environments are important to children’s development of independence and autonomy.
Outdoor play makes children more creative, more observant and instils a sense of peace and being at one with the world.
If a child spends a lot of time in nature, imagination and a sense of wonder develop more readily. Wonder is an important motivator for lifelong learning.
- Play in a diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying.
Our guest contributor Anna Neubert-Wood is a mum of two boys and a writes a blog called Free Flow Brothers. Check it out, it's lovely!
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