I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen.’ -Eeyore.
Ah, the great outdoors. Nothing quite like forest air, being surrounded by trees and hearing their rustling whispers. Or walking along a river or stream and listening to the water tumbling as it follows you. It is moments in nature that our brains get a chance to reset themselves. It is soothing after a busy week, or even a busy day, responding to external stimulus and other people’s requests, to just listen to something that doesn’t seek to require anything from you. Instead it just offers you respite from a noisy world. Our children are no different. They too need time in nature to repair and regenerate. To work out natural laws as opposed to trying hard to learn how to follow societal ones. It has been scientifically proven that children who spend more time outside in natural surroundings grow up more confident and healthier overall. And it’s no wonder. Being outside is fun! It teaches us about life without the need for elaborate role play. It teaches us about respect and courtesy for fellow humans, animals and nature. It develops our problem solving skills, which is something that all of us need in order to become emotionally resilient and happier in the long term.
And there are so many lovely little games and activities you can do with little ones when you are fortunate enough to be out in nature.
A walk in any season can be a real treasure trove. Talk about what you can see. A red leaf, a ladybird, something yellow. If you made a little record of what you see in one season, you can repeat the walk when the season’s change and compare notes. You could even make a small collection of treasures that you find to create art with when you get home.
One of my favourite things to do on a sunny day is to lay on a blanket on the ground and spot cloud shapes. Not only does it fuel creativity and knowledge about shapes, but in the quiet moments looking and searching, the most interesting conversations can be had. Just about little things you hear or see or something you did that day. It’s just a lovely chance to regroup as well as feel amazed at what nature can do. You can recreate the cloud shapes you see using cotton wool or paint.
Use the time whenever you are outside to make collections of acorns, leaves and pine cones. Assemble them onto some coloured paper and frame it. Seeing their creation on display somewhere in their home will fuel a wonderful sense of pride and confidence.
And taking inspiration from the great Winnie the Pooh, nothing beats a game of Poohsticks to rediscover how the simplest things can create the biggest smiles and the most fun. There is something magical about dropping a twig from a bridge into an awaiting stream and waiting for it to reappear on the other side. I don’t know if I can explain why. But that’s the beauty of being out in nature. No explanations needed. Just a sense of wonderment.
‘We didn’t realise we were making memories. we just knew we were having fun.’