Mamma's School

Adventures In Nature's Playground

Category: Outdoor Adventures (Page 1 of 7)

15 Reasons Why Nature Play is Good For Children

Nature play is the best way of helping our children to develop well physically, emotionally, and socially.  It’s got all bases covered!  I’ve come up with a few reasons as to why nature play is good for our children, and I hope by the end, you’ll be be grabbing your wellies and heading out into the great outdoors together 🙂

1. Nature has a very calming quality.  It is known to decrease stress, and increase happiness.  It is food for our minds.  This is because it doesn’t place any demands on us, but it is still engaging.  It is a must for our mental health and well being.

2. The natural exposure to light increases our vitamin D levels, which in turn improves our health.  It’s vitally important here in Sweden, in winter, that play outdoors in nature continues as the light times of the day are so short!  This means, at school, they are outdoors in almost any weather 🙂

3.  Nature play is full of “loose parts”.  These are things the children can play with that have no predetermined role.  This allows children’s imaginations and creativity to be used and called upon.  They can build, role play, make art, or use things as writing tools.  There are no predefined limits.  They also don’t become bored so fast, as with toys that have a predetermined role.

4.  Children’s strength and muscle tone are improved as they lift, shift, climb, and move about in nature.

5.  Nature play allows children to get dirty and “hands on” with nature.  Research has shown that this exposure to dirt helps increase their immunity (there is more to come on this in a future blog post).

6.  They are allowed to explore and investigate the environment, which leads to stimulation, awareness, and independence.

7.  Playing outdoors in nature increases the physical effort used, therefore promoting a healthier way of living and physically fitter children.

8.  They will use a wide range of skills, utilising both large and small motor skills – good for development again.

9.  Immersing the children in nature in such a positive way, helps nuture a love of nature.

10.  Being in nature so much, and developing a bond with it is also good for nature.  They will grow up wanting to protect it, respect it, and nurture it more having been immersed in it.  This in turn will help to conserve it more.

11.  Being outdoors in nature helps teach the children to enjoy the simple things in life, and to live in the present moment.  It does this whilst also instilling a sense of awe and adventure.

12.  Nature play naturally lends itself to more risk taking due to the environment the children are in.  We are in danger of raising a risk averse generation, and this will have further consequences when they are older.  By taking risks, they are learning to manage and control risks, and learn about risk management.  Otherwise they will not take risks and then will be unable to manage risks, or control them.  Their development suffers when they are not allowed to take risks as children need it, crave it, and are natural risk takers.

13.  Playing outdoors in nature increases communication skills and negotiating skills.  They are able to work together better, enhancing these skills which are another important part of their development.

14.  This environment also helps their problem solving skills more, due to the diversity of obstacles and options.

15.  Nature play is much healthier for our children, making them happier, which in turn, naturally leads to happier parents too 🙂

Nature play benefits, outdoor play, nature, children, www.mammasschool.co.uk

3 Little Buttons

Hiking with Kids and Tips for Surviving It!

Hiking with kids is exhausting, but mainly in the run up to it. Once you get out there with your little tribe, it is so worth all the effort to get your family ready to hit the trails 🙂 I know only too well the effort it takes getting small people ready to go outside, especially during a Swedish winter.  I have a blog post dedicated to the whys and wherefores, joys and frustrations over at this link http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/we-are-going-out-in-quite-a-while/ Today I want to talk more about why it is so good for families to get out there and go hiking with kids, and offer some handy tips for making it more enjoyable.  In the future I will be writing more about how we prepare and the logistics of what we take.  First off, as the parent, you need to stay motivated and focus on the end goal of getting out there, knowing that everyone will be happier, have a great adventure together, and be immersed in nature.  To motivate everyone else through that door you need to be motivated!  I also try and let my trio experience a range of weather conditions (within reason!).  I am careful not to make hiking a sunny day only activity, as with the right clothing, fun can be had in most weathers.  Want to know about why it is so good hiking with kids and tips to make it great for everyone?  Read on……

Why Go Hiking with Kids?

  1.  They need to be in the great outdoors.  It is good for their development, self esteem, and makes them healthier.
  2. They need exposure to nature and wildlife.  Their enjoyment of nature will help protect it in the future.  If they have experienced it and been immersed in it, they are more likely to want to nurture and conserve it in future…you are investing in nature’s future as well as your child’s.
  3. They are learning new skills…they climb, they run, they negotiate together, they learn to take risks more and manage those risks, as well as learning skills such as looking after themselves in the great outdoors, some basic survival skills, using a compass, and using a map.
  4. They are exercising!  Need I say more 🙂
  5. Out on a hike, everyone can truly unplug, leave screens and technology behind, forget about jobs in the home, and it gives an opportunity to reconnect together as a family.
  6. Hiking is known to be a stress buster, therefore increasing happiness and decreasing stress.

Tips to Survive Hiking with Kids.

  1.  Make sure you are carrying secret, emergency bribes.  Tired little legs sometimes need encouragement of the sweet variety.  It boosts morale, provides a little energy boost and you are good to go a little further.  Some days you may not need them, but keep them with you at all times!
  2. Take some props.  Our favourites are compasses, torches (winter), binoculars, bug pots, and cameras.  This in turn can lead to little tasks to help them along the trail’s way….we also like looking for tracks, especially in the winter snow.
  3. Plan the hike a little around food and play.  When I take my three trolls out, we hike a while, then I plan at least an hour, more like a 1.5-2 hour stop, then hike a little more.  During that stop they play and I cook.  They climb, adventure, explore, paddle or anything else that takes their fancy.  I get a fire going and we all get hot morale boosting food.  They will tackle the second stage of the hike with renewed enthusiasm even though they’ve still been expending energy throughout the break.
  4. Pitch your hike at their level…the distance to be covered, the weather conditions, the terrain.  However, feel free to stretch them a little bit.  Just get the balance right.
  5. Have little games up your sleeve to play….I don’t mean card or board games…I mean little games using nature while you are walking.  Or suggest a small stop to pick berries that can then be munched on route.
  6. Allow time, lots of it, and more again.  There is nothing worse than trying to hurry children along, they naturally get slower doing that.  They need to go at their pace, and not just their walking pace.  Their pace of life….looking, experiencing, collecting things all along the way.
  7. Take lots of food, and lots of water to make sure you are not caught short with the essentials.  These 2 things can alter a child’s mood substantially when the going gets tiring!

If you like the idea of hiking with your children and as a family, there are lots of hiking websites out there for inspiration and advice.  I like looking at https://highpeakshiking.com it’s a great site for the hiking community to share experiences, tips, and inspiration 🙂  I enjoy just browsing through and getting ideas or being a little nosy!  So go on, get planning your adventure!

Hiking with Kids and tips for surviving it, hiking children, outdoors, nature, children outdoors, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Burnished Chaos
3 Little Buttons
Hot Pink Wellingtons
Twin Mummy and Daddy

Our Autumn Bucket List – Getting Cosy In Autumn

I love all the seasons, and I am not sure I favour one more than the others.  However, when the seasons start changing and moving on, I am always ready for a change and love what the next one might bring – especially now that we live somewhere that has four distinct seasons!  So, now that autumn is well and truly here, we have spent the afternoon leaf rubbing in our nature journals as the background decor to our autumn bucket list – a list of everything that we would like to do during this season.  We’ve then made one giant list incorporating everyone’s little lists, so we can tick them off as we go.

Our Autumn bucket list ended up consisting of 34 things, and here they are:

1. Have a leaf fight

2. Catch falling leaves

3. Paint leaves

4. Kick leaves

5. Play with toys by the fire

6. Have a proper hot chocolate – with chocolate spoons, cream, and marshmallows

7. Eat warm kanelbullar (cinnamon buns)

8. Look for conkers

9. Roast pumpkin seeds

10. Roast chestnuts

11. Do nature art with leaves

12. Have a cosy afternoon in the library

13. Enjoy a season-scented bubble bath

14. Enjoy a season-scented candle

15. Sunset picnic

16. Sunrise picnic

17. Bake with apples

18. Bake with ginger

19. Carve a pumpkin

20. Count the leaf colours on a walk

21. Jump in leaves

22. Light indoor fires

23. Cosy on the sofa with stories and blankets

24. Watch a cosy autumn movie

25. Have the whole family toast marshmallows

26. Make a leaf caterpillar

27. Throw leaves

28. Autumn Camping

29. Autumn walk

30. Collect leaves

31. Make blackberry jam

32. Apple experiment

33. Sloeberry experiment

You may well be intrigued by a few of the things on the bucket list…I am!  But I guess that’s what you get when you ask two 5 year olds, one 9 year old, and a 41 year old what they would like to do this autumn 🙂

Our autumn bucket list, autumn, things to do in autumn, cosy autumn, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Burnished Chaos

Nature Therapy-Seeking Calm & Solitude

Everyone needs a bit of nature, and sometimes it’s easier said than done to get out there, but it is so important.

As my trio now go to school for the 5 mornings a week, for the first time in a lot of years, I am left with a few precious hours to call my own (all be it with a to-do list as long as my arm to work through before they all tumble back home again!  Same as any Mamma).  Nature has been my saving grace these past 9 years, even more so the last nearly 6…spot the link 😉 !  However, I now have the opportunity to head out into it on my own, without my band of crazies following me.  Don’t get me wrong, I live for our little hikes, our outdoor cooking, and exploring nature with them, but there is only real peace to be found when they aren’t leaping around in trees or running into the sea in their undies!  And I need peace as I find such a noisy house quite a bombardment on the senses.  I’m relishing these moments I can now take.  Sometimes I will cook, sometimes I will just make a hot drink with my beloved Kelly Kettle, but I will always admire the views.

Nature is, after all, therapy for the mind.  Nature is known to induce calm and decrease stress, as well as increasing happiness.  Nature is food for our minds, like food and water are for our bodies.  This is because the natural environment places no demands on us, yet it remains engaging.  It gets our attention in different ways.  It can promote calmness and well being due to being a low stress environment.  Being surrounded by nature has so many benefits, and the main one I was in search of today was the sounds of the waves.  I love sitting there listening to the sea hitting the shore, whether it’s gentle lapping or crashing waves.  So I packed my breakfast and cooking things and headed off around the island, stopping half way to cook my supplies and enjoy the view.

Nature can help increase our happiness levels.  The breathing in of fresh air, combined with taking exercise with a nice view, all helps to put your mind into a happier place.  Nature makes us healthier.  It increases our exposure to natural light, which in turn helps increase our vitamin D levels.  This helps prevent some health problems, but also being outdoors helps improve sleep, decreases stress, and increase energy…something I always find disappearing quickly with three children around!

Whilst I’m not naive enough to think that all of my troubles, or anyone else’s, will be washed away by a walk in nature, immersing oneself in it for a few hours certainly makes me feel more like myself.  No doubt 10 minutes of them being home again will undo most of the good work, but I’m still reaping the benefits really 🙂

Nature therapy, healing nature, calming nature, solitude nature, nature, outdoors, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Sticks Are The Best Toys Ever!

Sticks are great toys….they are free, abundantly available in the outdoors, and have many play possibilities and functions.  Plus, children seem drawn to them like magnets 🙂  Anyone that follows us on Instagram (@mammasschool) will know that my trio are rarely seen without a bundle of sticks, or trying to drag what is more like a tree trunk along on a hike.

When playing with sticks there is an added benefit, in that they are generally to be found in the outdoors, which means they lend themselves to naturally be played with in the great outdoors.  I have many posts about the benefits of outdoor play.  They can be found in the following links:

http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/balanced-barefoot-importance-unrestricted-outdoor-play/

http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/outdoor-play-children-natures-sanity/

http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/healing-nature-relying-beach-work-magic/

http://mammasschool.co.uk/outdoor-adventures/wild-camping-children-sweden/

In today’s post I want to chat a little about why sticks are so important and a method of play for children.

Sticks are a “loose part” toy.  That means that they have no predetermined role.  It is all down to the child’s imagination and creativity as to what they become, or are used for.  This is important for growth and development.  They can build and construct with them, role play with them, create art with them, and even use them as writing tools.  They also come in lots of shapes, sizes, colours, and textures, adding to the fun.  Many parents shy away from letting children play with sticks on safety grounds.  We have 3 main rules; the sticks do not touch people, you don’t hit anything with them, and lastly (but important for my sanity), they stay outdoors!  Every stick they find is always “the best ever” and I’d have a house full without this rule.   So, with these three little rules in place, a lot of fun can be had.  They may still need a little help drawing the line if play gets a little exuberant, but instead of teaching children that nature is dangerous, we are teaching them it is fun to play in, and then they will have more of a desire to protect it as they are growing up.  They are being able to integrate with nature more.

Other Benefits To Playing with sticks:

  1. It teaches the children personal space and awareness.
  2. It allows them to build strength and muscle (some of them are quite heavy that they shift around).
  3. It allows them to get dirty and “hands on” with nature, helping to build their immunity (a discussion for another day!).
  4. They are allowed to explore their own environment and work out what takes on which role.
  5. It increases stimulation and awareness for the child.
  6. They are using both large and small motor skills.
  7. And of course, they are doing a lot of physical activity when playing with them…all very healthy.

 

So, next time you are headed outdoors with the little people, embrace the stick play 🙂 I find it hard to not keep saying things like “be careful”, or “do you really need to carry that?”, but I try very hard and leave them to it, and generally it all works out OK.  They’ve had a lot of fun, they’ve learnt a lot through play, and I am more relaxed because there have been less arguments as we’ve all been outdoors (even if I was tripping over someone’s log being dragged on the hike!!).

 

sticks, play with sticks, stick toys, outdoor play, nature play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Watch a Sunset-Watch Nature’s Magical Show.

watch a sunset, nature, sunset, www.mammasschool.co.uk

“Sunset is still my favorite color, and rainbow is second” – Mattie Stepanek

Last autumn I started taking our trio for sunset picnics…the joy of living in a country where it gets dark very early in the winter 🙂  The sunset provides some of the most stunning sights in nature, and I challenge you not to be in awe and dream while watching this amazing event take place.  Being a mamma to three young children and collapsing into my bed as soon as I can at night, the summer sunsets have been rather too late for me living in Sweden!!  However, they are now returning to a more sociable hour for me, and last night, for our little lady too.  We took a sneaky trip out on our bikes to watch the sun set for the day (leaving the mini men snoring their little heads off in their beds!).  In fact twin 2 had already asked me at breakfast that morning if we could have a sunset picnic….”soon” I said, not long to wait now, and I was so happy he remembered the experiences from last autumn, winter, and spring.

We wrapped up, packed our kelly kettle so that we could have a warming brew, and once we’d located the long lost bike lights, we cycled up to the north west point of our island.  It was so lovely to head out just the 2 of us, for this peaceful and calming experience.  We sat there, in almost silence, holding our hot chocolates, and watching the sun saying goodnight for the day as it sank into the sea below our horizon.

This is a really easy mini adventure that I think all children should experience every so often as part of their immersion in nature, that in turn helps towards making them more aware of their environment and wanting to care for it and its future.  It helps nurture their love of nature. It teaches them to enjoy the simple things in life, living in the present moment, whilst instilling a sense of awe and adventure….part of the excitement for our little lady was also the ride home in the dark!  It’s a time together with your child/children that definitely allows bonding and strengthening of relationships, as well as providing cherished memories.

I can see there will be a lot of sunset picnics coming up in the next few months as our seasons change, and so do the views and light cast by this spectacle.  We may be eating our food in gloves and woolly hats soon, but my three wouldn’t miss these for the world, and that makes me happy!

Country Kids

Burnished Chaos
3 Little Buttons
Hot Pink Wellingtons

#ablogginggoodtime

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Wild Camping with Children in Sweden.

Wild camping….with three little people….I think Dadda might have thought I was a bit daft, but he agreed we should try so we did!  Here in Sweden, we have this fantastic thing called “allemansrätten”:  this is the right of public access to roam freely almost anywhere in the countryside.  There are a few responsibilities that come with this; you take care of nature and wildlife, respect landowners and others enjoying the countryside, respect the land and leave no trace you have been there, don’t disturb and don’t destroy.

I had really wanted to get the children away for wild camping, and with the summer now slipping away from us fast, we felt it was now or never for this year.  I had taken them away for 2 nights on my own somewhere over the summer holidays, but it was on a campsite.  It suited our needs well, especially as I was on my own with them, but it was noisy, cramped, and expensive!!  I wanted a closer experience to nature for them, and a more basic, less commercialised one as well.  Where else can you play in trees and swim in freezing sea, all before breakfast?!

I have written a lot in the past about the benefits of the great outdoors and nature play.  You can take a peek at the following posts to go into those in more depth;

http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/outdoor-play-children-natures-sanity/

http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/take-a-risk-explore-inside-a-tree/

http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/balanced-barefoot-importance-unrestricted-outdoor-play/

There were a lot of those reasons involved in our decision to get our children out for a night of wild camping.  Being outdoors and in nature, supports all forms of development, there is more adventure to be had, there are more challenges (and mine up the ante with these by competing, for example who can climb the highest in the tree), and there is more creativity at work.  They love to explore and there is much more to explore in the outdoors, teaching them to adapt to their environment and take risks.  It increases their teamwork as well as their confidence, both very evident in how they helped and persuaded each other during little excursions into the woods during both the daylight and the dark, while we cooked and cleared away.  They taught each other little things too.  However, our decision to take them wild camping was not just about the children.  It is also about looking after nature and there are benefits to us grown ups too.  Our children will not grow up wanting to protect, respect, and look after nature unless they have experienced it, spent a lot of time immersed in it, and been allowed to enjoy it.  This will increase their desire to conserve it.  Also, while I will be the first to raise my hand and say any camping is hard work for the grown ups, before you even make it wild, we too benefit from being outdoors and in nature.  We are getting our fresh air and vitamin D and N, our moods are better (although I have to say the weather does have the potential to alter this!), and our blood pressure should 😉 be lower!

We headed off on our wild camping trip to a place west of us called Gö.  It’s a delightful little peninsula, and whilst here in Sweden you don’t have to go far from any car park to be in the middle of nature and away from people. Plus it was really accessible for us with three small children, and I knew it would be relatively easy to pitch our tent.  We were on our own surrounded by beautiful nature, and it was very peaceful too.  The children learnt a lot of new things as well on this trip.  They helped with the tent pitching, the fire building and lighting, how to toilet, cooking, we star gazed which initiated a whole torrent of questions, and during the night a lost young deer could be heard calling for its mother.  They learnt a lot about looking after themselves, from the importance of insect repellent, to getting over the confusion about sleeping in their clothes, and how to not traipse all the sand and dirt into the sleeping areas.  We watched the sun set, before we laid on our backs and watched the stars come out.  Then in the morning, we had a very freezing dip in the sea after they had been climbing trees!

So, after returning very tired (between them, their sleep talking was constant!), very smelly, and needing a decent loo, are we pleased we did this mini adventure?  Too right we are.  It was a break from the norm for everyone, and for that reason it has provided everyone with a very memorable experience.  The children loved the increased freedom (although they enjoy quite a lot of freedom here in Sweden anyway, they were allowed to wonder into the woods and explore the cove on their own….we could hear them before you panic!).  It was back to basics, with no distractions, bonding time together as a family and as siblings, and lots of fun had with nature play.  I would definitely recommend this to any family (but as we did, go for the easier option of a dry period!!).  Good luck and I really hope you’ll step out of your comfort zone (as we did) and give it a go.  You’ll be seriously pooped but left wanting to do it again…..maybe in another year 🙂

Wild camping, kids camping, children camping, nature, outdoors, sweden, camping, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Country Kids

Learning to Use a Compass – Teaching the Basics.

Learning to Use a compass-teaching the basics, compass, navigation, orienteering, map reading www.mammasschool.co.ukToday’s hike had an ulterior motive behind it…to get the trio learning more about the basics of using their compasses.  We have had these out before for a little walk, and a brief lesson about finding north, but I felt it was now time to learn a little more about direction.  My trio definitely learn best in the great outdoors, and with a practical skill such as compass use, it suits us better to be doing it outside, rather than sat indoors.  I remember at school doing the theory indoors and then heading outdoors for the practical, but not really taking anything in until we were outdoors.  Therefore, I aim to teach as much as I can out on the ground, and less splitting it into definite theory and practical elements for them, as they find it much harder to relate the theory to anything!

We left the car in the car park, and had gone 20m when we came across a style, and our first stand off of the hike.  My double trouble are very into competing against each other.  It ranges from who is first everywhere, to who was last in through the door so has to shut the door (the back door is open flapping letting cold air in for ages while they argue who shuts it), and today it seemed no one wanted to be first down the steps the other side, although both had reached the top together in a race!!  My little lady and I were stuck behind them trying to get them to shift so we could get on with the yomp!  Oh the joys of hiking with little people.  The trio were quite grumpy on this particular afternoon, so I decided we’d hike to our designated fire pit for the afternoon, have our cooked treat and a play, and then hopefully they would be in better spirits for the return leg, and a bit of a compass lesson.  No point teaching them in this mood as nothing will go in and they will not be receptive.  Sometimes, I’ll carry on the plans with whoever is receptive, but with all three behaving like it was a bad day, there was little point!!  It was a lovely spring day so I was determined we would make the most of it.

We arrived at where the fire pit should have been, but there wasn’t one we could find…very unusual here in Sweden.  So we retraced our steps a bit to a large rock and gathered some stones into a circle and created our own fire pit.  It was good for the children to learn why I wasn’t just happy to place a fire any old place in the woods, and then how to build one, so all was not lost!  I had also bought a new piece of equipment, a raised grill shelf on legs, that I wanted to try out too.  The fire pits here are great, but it isn’t until you reach somewhere that you find out whether you have a grill over it or not.  Not everything we cook needs it, but there are some things I prefer not to place directly on the flames, and today I was using a saucepan so it was a perfect chance to try it out.  We lit our fire, we cooked our food (see outdoor cooking for the campfire posts, as recipe in another blog post), and the children played happily….well until there was screaming to be heard!  The trio had found a tree to climb that was infested with the hugest red ant colony.  Instead of then staying away from it, they felt it was a challenge of who could get up and down it without getting bitten, but also they were curious to watch them.  Very soon someone had been nipped (twin 1) and he was yelling at the top of his lungs (he has big strong lungs!!).  Luckily I carry Anthisan, so it was calmed down quite quickly and another lesson was learnt!

Apart from the ant nip, everyone was in much better spirits so we each got our compasses out.  We started by learning the main four directions of the compass…north, south, east, and west.  Looking at the letter with the little ones, and working out what that would then stand for.  We then lined north up, to work out which way we were walking.  Luckily this was quite simple at first as the path followed an east direction.  Very soon though my little lady announced that “Mamma it is in the middle of north and east now”.  At this point we then sat down and looked at the other letters on the compass (NE, SE, SW, and SE).  Once we had learnt to listen to the sound of those letters (for the twins) to then work out what they stood for (the little lady was a little bit easier to teach as she can work it out quicker), we then were able to stop at regular intervals and say in which direction we were walking.  That was more than enough for them to take on board today, and I think we will be just practising that skill for a little while yet before we introduce anything else new, but they enjoyed it, and the accomplishment of understanding what the compass was saying.

All three did eventually admit they had loved their little hike, despite the wobbly start.  Once I had got over twin 1’s insistence that he didn’t need to use the compass because he wasn’t lost, they also loved being able to use the compass and work out what it was saying!  It was a close shave at the start of the walk, but eventually it became a successful and sunny afternoon out!

 

 

Spring Equinox Picnic-Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

The Spring Equinox Vernal Equinox www.mammasschool.co.ukThis week it has been the spring equinox, otherwise called the vernal equinox.  So, we deviated away from our nature curriculum to have a closer look and some fun with this instead.  So what is it?  It is technically when spring starts.  It is termed an equinox, as all over the globe day and night is roughly equal in length, being 12 hours each.  We are in the northern hemisphere so have the spring equinox, whilst in the southern hemisphere they are experiencing the autumnal equinox.  The day and night length is not an exact science, and it has a lot more to do with marking key times in the astronomical cycle of the earth.  In a year we have two equinoxes (autumn and spring), and two solstices (winter and summer).  There is a lot of other detail I could go in to, but I’m keeping this at the level I am teaching my trio 🙂  The spring equinox has for a long time been celebrated as a time of rebirth, and there are many lovely festivals experienced around the world to celebrate it.  So we decided to have our own little celebration, a picnic!

The trio and I thought it would be a lovely idea to head over to the west side of the island to watch the sun set.  It’s now setting at about 6pm (bang on its twelve hour day/night cycle), and would be one of the last times the children would see the sunset until the autumn.  I love my children dearly, but I equally love their bedtimes as I am exhausted by 7pm, when the house falls calm and quiet!!  There will no doubt be the odd time between now and the autumn where they will stay up, but I wanted to be sure they definitely caught this sunset.  We knew there was a well positioned fire pit, so we packed up some food to cook, and headed over.

The weather was not totally on our side though.  It was a very blustery (and cold as usual!) spring evening, with quite a bit of cloud around.  When we arrived though, the sun was peeping through the clouds and the wind dropped a little.  We lit the fire, and I got cooking, while the children got playing.  This was going to work well being a family too, as Dadda’s bus has a stop on the island a 5 minute walk from where we were.  So, I messaged him, and he said he’d join us, getting off at that bus stop on the way back from work.  We enjoyed the hot food, followed by a dessert of toasted marshmallows, and then the wind really picked up!  Once the wind picked up, we ended up hiding behind a boat hut to protect us a bit as it was very strong!

There’s a girl in there somewhere!

We waited until the sun had set, peeping out from behind the hut to watch it, then packed up our things and headed home before we blew off!!!

 

Country Kids

Den Building – An Endangered Activity.

Yesterday was one of those afternoons where all three decided to be in the house, but they couldn’t settle to play without getting at each other.  I had some baking to do for visitors the next day, but once that was cracked, I chivied them into their outdoor gear, packed up some supplies, and we headed into the woods over the road.  I declared an afternoon of den building was required!  We’ve done this many times before, but not recently, and not since we’ve moved to Sweden.  So, with the sun and rain alternating, and to the backdrop of birdsong and woodpeckers hammering (we have a lot of woodpeckers in our woods!), my trio set about their challenge.  I deliberately stayed out of it.  This was something for them to be creative and work together, not for a grown up to intervene with their ideas and commands.

I have written about the benefits of outdoor play a lot before ( http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/outdoor-play-children-natures-sanity/ ), so why did I specifically take them out to build to a den?  Dens can be built both indoors and outdoors, but I needed to get them out the house, and life works a lot better outdoors for us.  Building a den challenges the little person both mentally and physically.  They are using their imagination and creative thinking to come up with a place that will stay standing, and provide a little bit of shelter.  Dens also provide a sense of self.  An adult might ruin this experience with their ideas of making it look nice and being functional, whereas the child is more interested in its purpose.  They are coming at den building from a completely different angle.  The children are problem solving as they try and make their construction stand up and stay up!  They are getting a great physical workout, but having a huge amount of fun in the process.  The main reason I sent my trio out there was for the benefit of team work.  It was to get them working together and enjoying each other’s company, with the sense of achievement at the end, that comes from succeeding at something together.  Ultimately, once the den is done, comes the fantastic thing that is role play.  The den turns into a fort, or a secret hiding place, or in our case yesterday, a house for playing out whatever scenario took their fancy.

As usual our little lady took command of the project, but I was careful to mention quietly to her to try and use listening ears with the mini men.  They have ideas too, and then I left them to it, to work at their team building and negotiating skills between them, and hopefully produce a den whilst having fun at the same time!  She marched them off deeper into the woods (we had stopped by a fire pit so we had a central location for them to return to), to select their site.  They then went off in search of supplies.  She was very lucky, and managed to find a huge sheet of plastic tarpaulin!  Whilst they set about their construction I busied myself making a Kelly Kettle fire for hot drinks, and a little fire for marshmallow toasting, as den building works up an incredible appetite…especially if your are 9, and in the past few days have developed hollow legs!

After a bit of sustenance I headed back into the den location with them, to see what they had excitedly been chatting about over the camp fire.  They had made a fantastic den, but they had also located a rope swing, and some excellent climbing trees.  I watched them play and enjoyed listening to them, before the rain started.  Whilst we don’t head indoors when it rains (that is a whole other story to tell about how rain is fun!), I did think it was a chance to get cosy inside the den with a new story book I had brought out with me in the backpack (all three of mine love stories).  So we crawled in and read our book.  Our little lady started it off, and then I took over so she could enjoy being read to as well, which is important that I remember the fact that although she loves reading, she loves listening too.

They had a great afternoon, and were in a much better mood when we returned home, cooperating better together 🙂  With children playing out less, having less unstructured play time, and more scheduled activities, den building (both indoors and out) is in real danger of disappearing from their play, but is vitally necessary for their development.  Go on….get them out there today (or challenge them to build one indoors if you really can’t face going out!), and sit back and wait to reap the benefits of their play session.  Then maybe you could facilitate a feast for them in their hideout too.  Honestly, you will have a few hours of peace, it’s worth it for parents too.  If going outdoors, take a book to enjoy. If at home, just enjoy the calm to get some of your own down time 🙂

Den Building-An Endangered Activity. The Importance of Den building children den building www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Country Kids

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