By Louise Hack, Academic Tutor
With the weather improving and longer days here to stay, it has been wonderful to see so many people enjoying the outdoors over the Easter holidays – long may this last! I have spent most of my days in the great outdoors planting, potting on, laying turf, tending to my allotment, hunting for fairies and attempting to use the most amazing bubble wands. I even spent the most enjoyable afternoon searching for the Bugaboo in the woods. For those of you that don’t know. the Bugaboo is a friendly creature who also knows the Gruffalo!
The outdoors is such an amazing place to be for so many reasons and I am sure you will all learn through my blogs that I am a huge advocate of helping others to see the opportunities that it can bring by stepping over that threshold. It doesn’t all have to be messy (although it can add to the fun) but it does need invested time where children can explore, engage their senses, enjoy the freedom and learn to appreciate the living world. So many of us now stay indoors more and interact using technology which uses less physical movement and less hands-on interaction and connection. Although technology has its place, so does the natural world and what’s more…. it’s free!
What does the great outdoors have to offer for children and grown-ups?
Space and endless opportunities for play and interaction with the natural world
Allows for open ended, creative and imaginative opportunities
Allows a greater connection and appreciation with the world around us and in turn develops the value and care needed for the living world
The outdoors engages all the senses
It brings a sense of peace and calm in a busy world and reduces stress and anxiety
It allows you to be “in the moment”
So with that all in mind, here are some ideas of ways to enjoy the outdoors with your little folk:
In my experience, children love to collect items, which I like to call “treasures”, when they are out and about. I always take a collecting bowl or little bag when taking a journey into the wild because you never know what you may find! When heading outside with a collecting bag/bowl, invite your child to collect interesting objects along your walk. Once you are home or having a little sit down, lay out your treasures and have a go at making a natural, temporary sculpture together. You could try and create a picture using the treasures or even consider how to create something using the shapes and colours. Sometimes simply lining up the objects in size or colour is just as magical. The most amazing thing about this type of nature activity is that the opportunities are endless and so many different sculptures can be made. Enjoy 😊
Power of the stick
Children are fascinated by sticks and they are naturally drawn to them.
But as I am out and about, I often hear the following:
“Put the stick down and step away!
It’s too dangerous and might hurt someone!”
Sticks can offer so much! They can be fairy wands, claws, fishing rods, stirring sticks, light sabres or form part of a stick collection and so much more. One of my favourite children’s books at the moment is “Stanley’s Stick” by John Hegley. This text emphasises how a stick can transform into all manner of objects and how imagination can blossom.
So surely if we are careful, supervise and explain how to be safe and enjoy the space with sticks then surely we can pick them up??? Well I do and so does my dog… hmmm may need to teach him about the safety and size of stick!
Looking for fairies
One of my favourite activities with little ones is to enjoy the search for fairies. Every year we take a journey to a beautiful garden in East Sussex called King Johns Gardens, where you can walk quietly and carefully through their gardens searching for all the fairies and their little homes. On a sunny day we love wandering through meadows full of fritillaries, daffodils and primroses following the winding paths over the bridges and down to the woodland walk where you will find a secret pond protected by Titania and Oberon. At the end of our exploring and searching we always reward ourselves with tea and cake in their little café – well, after all it is hard work finding fairies!
Magic carpet of bluebells
There is something so magical about bluebells from the sign of green leaves bringing hope for the season to the bursting of blue/purple flowers which appear so suddenly and then followed by the most amazing scent. Sunny, warm days are the best days to enjoy them because the scent is just perfect and adds a whole new element when searching for this treasured flower. We are so lucky in Sussex to have the most delightful abundance of bluebells, below being some of my favourite places to go:
Arlington Bluebell Woods in East Sussex
Ashenground Wood, Haywards Heath
Blunts Wood, Cuckfield
Enjoy your search for the beautiful bluebell. But be quick because they disappear as quickly as they magically appear. But please remember not to trample on them for the ‘perfect photo’ – you can do years of damage by standing on their dainty stems.
Outdoor experiences allow us to escape and when I look back through childhood photos it appears that I may have spent most of my time outside. What do we all recall as adults… staying inside watching TV? No we remember the excitement of hands on experiences, freedom, muddy hands and faces, sun kissed cheeks and time to take adventures. These are the moments that create lasting memories.
I recently posted an amazing quote by Rebecca Cooper: “It’s in the rushing that we miss the magic”. So, take a deep breath, let go of your busy lives, head outside and enjoy the little things.