As much as I like the lifestyle living in a flat gives us as a family, it was lovely being able to open the backdoor, while we were staying at my parents’ house last week, and let Freya play in garden – and so easy.
I’m grateful to have lots of green spaces around us and we generally spend a lot of time outside but, even when we go to our patch of shared grass downstairs, it’s something of an expedition. Mostly Freya loves nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles or hunting butterflies but sometimes the extra effort of always having to go somewhere means she does need a little bit of convincing.
While I’m more than happy to let her have quiet days at home when she needs them, I firmly believe that for children to care about the environment, they need to feel part of it – and she can’t do that if she’s sat inside all the time.
In a way, because we can’t just pop outside, I think it’s even more important to encourage her to have that connection with nature, which is obviously good for her both mentally and physically too. As a result, over the last couple of years we have come up with a few tricks for getting her excited about being in the great outdoors which I thought I’d share.
1. Bug/nature hunt.
Just like her mum, Freya loves a list. Suggesting a bug hunt is the most successful one for us, especially now she’s learning to read and write. When she was younger, I had a go at drawing the bugs or different leaves but now, with her help, we make a list. I just fold two sheets of A4 paper in half and then tie them with string (or ribbon, if I’m feeling fancy). She loves to tick things off.
2. Explorer’s kit.
Every explorer needs equipment, which in our case is things we already had but were just randomly scattered about the flat. Now they live in their own bag (an Elsa lunchbox, of course).
We have a magnifying glass, binoculars (which I found in a charity shop), a pond sampler (which we were given at an event), pens and paper (if we don’t have a bug hunt book) and mini Collins gem guides to birds and bugs. If we spot something and we don’t know what it is, we look it up. Like this little fellow.
We think its a cinnamon bug. One to add to the list next time.
3. Art scavenger.
Generally I’m a ‘take only pictures’ type person – I certainly never let her pick flowers -but if we go to one of our local parks, which were are very lucky to have nearby, we will occasionally collect some leaves and twigs to make into ‘art’. We’ve also made them at the park and left everything behind too. If you’re like me and lack any sort of imagination for this type of thing, Pinterest is your new best friend.
Sometimes we also take paints or colouring pens outside on nice days. Leaves make good paint brushes or shapes to print around.
4. Bike ride/race.
One of the main reasons we like to get Freya outside is because she has SO much energy. In the flat I’m always having to say “don’t lump around” (our poor neighbours) whereas when we are outside she can run, jump and generally race about as much as she likes. As she’s got older, we’ve added the bike/scooter into things. Also, one of the things we’ve found is that, if she starts moaning about having to walk, if you offer her a race to a certain tree or bench she will soon perk up. So competitive! She doesn’t get that from me.
We usually go out fairly early so we can end up eating our picnic anywhere from 10am. Even though I’m not a fan of fending off assorted bugs, if it makes Freya happy, I’ll give it a go (I do jump about quite a lot though). It’s nice for her to sit for a while too (although she’s quite often looking at things through her binoculars in between bites).
These things work well at the moment but she’s only four. I do wonder how much longer we’ll be able to encourage her using these methods.
Have you got any tips for inspiring reluctant children outside?