Five Tips For Helping Young Children Enjoy The Great Outdoors.

IMG_4115 2

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.

IMG_4104 3

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.

IMG_4146 2

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.

IMG_4094 2

We think its a cinnamon bug. One to add to the list next time.

3. Art scavenger.

hedgehog

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.

Image-1

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.

5. Picnic.

IMG_4142

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?

Advertisements

Another Parenting Chapter: The School Trip.

small-bean

For her first school trip Freya went to…Tesco.

That’s right, the supermarket.

Apparently it was The Best Day Ever.

They got to go through doors you’re not normally allowed to enter, wear paper hats, bake bread and learn about all sorts of food.

It sounds amazing… and not at all like the exact same place we’ve visited almost every week of her life.

I’ll admit I was a little bit jittery about her going but it was just for a couple of hours, she’d been there before and it was only down the road.

I still drilled her full name and address with her a few hundred dozen times and gently talked about stranger danger but all in all I was pretty chilled…well, compared with her latest excursion anyway.

This time they were going to a forest.

A forest 45 minutes away.

In a minibus without car seats.

Along a very busy dual carriageway.

Yes, it sounded like a really fun and educational trip but there was a huge part of me that simply didn’t want to let her go.

“Imagine how I felt each time you announced you were jetting off somewhere remote and possibly dangerous,” was my mum’s input.

It was for work, mostly.

And I was in my 20s and 30s at the time, not FOUR.

But, yes, I can appreciate, now, how it might have been a little worrying for her. Sorry mum.

My dad was more sympathetic.

“I bet you feel like following along behind her,” he said. He was joking, of course, but his  laugh sounded a little nervous when met with my silence as I imagined myself dressed head to toe in black (not sure why as it would be daylight), following behind in the car and then hiding behind trees to make sure she didn’t wander off.

When I discussed it with some of the other mums it seemed like we might get a convoy going.

In the end I did manage to leave her in the classroom on the day of the trip with a cheery “have fun” – even though all of my motherly instincts were urging me to pick her up, run all the way home, wrap her in a blanket and snuggle her all day.

I walked home, via the shop for chocolate, very slowly in the hope that I would see her getting on the bus through the fence. I *might* have imagined seeing the bus pull out and then jumping on and clinging to the back door.

It’s not that I don’t trust her teachers to take care of her. They are brilliant and very experienced, I knew they would look after her. Freya is also used to being outside and exploring without any drama. I’m not sure whether it’s being a former news reporter or just an anxious mum but all sorts of horrible scenarios were going through my head. All day.

Thankfully all was well. Freya said the trip was brilliant and talked about seeing aliens on roller blades (?!). I’m not sure they were supposed to be there but as long as she’s happy.

I know I’m going to have to get better at this; at letting go of the reins a bit more. Although, if my mum is anything to go by, maybe you never get better at it? I want her to be independent and eventually to go off and explore the world. If she wants to. When she’s 30. But it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was pureeing her food and changing her nappy.

Any tips for making school trips easier (for me)? Maybe don’t read the news any more? Pretend to be four and go with her? 

Talking About Death With A Four-Year-Old.

dod2.png

“I’ll always be able to count on you, won’t I mummy?” Freya asked.

We were sat at the dining table where she was drawing before dinner.

“Of course. Always.” I answered, gently rubbing her back. She looked up from her work and smiled sweetly. What a lovely mother/daughter moment.

“Not when you’re dead,” she added.

I didn’t even flinch. “Well, no, maybe not then.”

I’m getting used to having my hopefully not impending demise thrust in my face. It’s like some sort of hardcore therapy.

As an older mum, dying before she’s grown is a background worry. It was one of those things that used to keep me awake at night when I was pregnant and a billion hormones were racing around my body causing havoc. What if I’m not there when she’s a teenager; when she goes to uni; when she goes off backpacking (and I can’t go with her); when she gets married? Maybe younger mums worry about that sort of thing too? Maybe having children makes you think more about your own mortality?

People, young and old, die everyday. I figured there was no point in thinking about something I largely have no control over. So I didn’t. Or at least I tried not to. Until now,  when that option has rather been taken away from me.

I know just who to blame for her current fascination with death. I’m looking at you, Pixar and Disney.

dayofthedead
An advert for their new film, Coco, came on television one night and prompted a discussion about Day Of The Dead. I think I did a pretty good job of explaining what it was in a positive and hopeful way – as, to me, it seems like a colourful, life-affirming holiday.

But then, later, as we all sat snuggled together in the warm, darkened living room in the wind down before bed, she shocked us when she said to Mark: “If you die, I’ll be fine because mummy will be here to look after me.”

It was the almost “nur nur ne nur nur” way she said it that took us by surprise. I turned from raising my eyebrows at Mark, back to Freya to try and find something appropriate to say. Before I had chance her little face crumbled.

“But…but…if you die,” she said to me. “I will be all on my own.”

Big fat tears started rolling down her face. She looked utterly heartbroken. And then, suddenly, I was crying too.

Wait, what. No. That isn’t supposed to happen – although she had just tapped straight into one of my nightmares so maybe it’s forgivable?

I wiped away my tears and Mark and I both worked to reassure her that we are not going to die and, even if we did, she has lots of people who love her, including my brother who has already agreed to raise her should anything happen to us.

It seemed to sooth her.

We’ve had further conversations about what happens when you die. I was actually worried about this – as someone without any religious faith – but I’ve been able to talk to her about all sorts of beliefs (it just so happened that our local mosque was holding an open day so I was able to take her there too as part of our general learning). I explained that when she’s older she will be able to decide what she does or doesn’t believe in, just like I did.

IMG_5749

She seemed ok about it but the four-year-old mind is a mysterious beast and now, every so often, she’ll just randomly drop it into conversation. We might be talking about something completely unrelated or be in the middle of the food shop. At first I asked her if she had anything else she wanted to say about it but it seems she just wants to let me know that she knows. It’s like living with some sort of mini Grim Reaper.

Now most of our conversations go a bit like this.

Her in the middle of dinner: “I’ll miss you when you die, Mummy.”

Me: “Thank you. Eat some more peas.”

I know it’s fairly normal at her age to start thinking about death but have any of you got any tips? Anything specific I should or shouldn’t be doing?

Little Hearts, Big Love