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Do you need inspiration for things to do out there with your little people? Or maybe just a bit of background information on why it is so important we have more outdoor families? Here are my favourite 7 books to inspire and get us out there in the great outdoors more, especially with our little people 🙂
1. How to Raise a Wild Child – Scott Sampson
In this book you will find information as to why children need to be encouraged and supported in making a connection with nature. He also provides tips and ideas on how to do this in today’s world that is both busy and high tech.
2. Vitamin N – Richard Louv
This is described as a “practical handbook” which will help families enjoy the natural world and the outdoors. It works through ideas from babies to teens, and provides many ideas to help us get out there with children of all ages.
3. A Natural Sense of Wonder – Rick Van Roy
The author takes us along with him on his adventures with his own children. As we go on the journey with him, he teaches us what nature has to teach us and why this is so important.
4. Unplugged – Jason Runkel Sperling
This book is all about families getting together and building nature clubs. “15 steps to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, yourself, friends, and family”. There are tips, tools, and tales all in these pages.
5. Last Child in the Woods – Richard Louv
This book describes “saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. It goes through in depth why our children are suffering and missing out on what nature has to offer, and what the implications to both children and nature are because of this.
6. Balanced and Barefoot – Angela Hanscom
The author is a paediatric occupational therapist, and in her book she explains why natural and free play is essential for our children’s bodies and minds, and general development. This is a very thought provoking read. It also provides ideas as to how we can help them thrive.
7. A Little Bit of Dirt – Asia Citro
A fantastic book that has over 55 science and art activities to help children connect with nature. They are simple, fun, and my trio adore doing them. They are perfect for all ages (my three are 9 and 5), and prompt discovery and imagination.
This is just a little sneaky Saturday morning post, to you let you all in on some new exciting things going on with Mamma’s School. We have a few new weekly challenges now that I hope you will enjoy and join in with as our lovely community grows 🙂
First of all, over on our Facebook page we have the first of our challenges, “Mucky Mondays!”. Please share a moment from the week (can be a photo if you like) of your child being allowed to get dirty when you wanted to say something to stop it. Share to inspire others, however small (we all know it can be hard to let them do it!) but it’s good for them and fun! It’s just for our lovely Facebook community, so please share around so others can join in the fun. Hop over to our Facebook page now, and like it/follow it to join in on Monday ⇒ Mamma’s School Facebook
Then the second of our challenges is also on our Mamma’s School Facebook page
This is for Fridays and called Friday Outdoor Fun. Please share a moment from the week (can be a photo if you like) of you and the children having fun in the great outdoors. Share to inspire others, however small (we all know it can be hard to get out there sometimes!) but any brief moment in the great outdoors is beneficial to everyone! So head over and follow the page to join in this one 🙂
Then the last of our challenges is a new hashtag #fridayoutdoorfun for my lovely Instagram community at Mamma’s School….share a photo of your outdoor fun from the week and inspire others into the great outdoors. Every Friday I will pick my four favourites 😊see you over on the hashtag and don’t forget to follow Mamma’s School on Instagram to keep up with our adventures in pictures and check out our InstaStories…click the link ⇒ Mamma’s School Instagram
I hope you’ll join me in these challenges, have fun along the way, and meet lots of like minded people!! See you there 🙂 If you have any ideas you’d like to see happen at Mamma’s School, drop me a comment in the comments box.
Summer seems so far away now, but I wanted to share a beautiful place with you that we visited during our long, lazy Swedish summer 🙂 Skanör is right down in the southwest corner of Skåne, Sweden, and you can see Denmark and the famous Öresund bridge connecting the two countries. There is a pretty town, surrounded by long stretches of white sandy beaches and beautiful blue clear seas.
I took the trio on a camping adventure to Skanör over the summer. It was only for 2 nights (I was the only adult with 2 five year old’s and a 9 year old, and camping is hard work!!), but we could have easily stayed a lot longer (in a hotel!!) enjoying the pristine white beaches, clean clear seas, and stunning views. We pottered a little around the town of Skanör to get a feel for the place, before heading down towards the sand dunes. Nestled in the sand dunes are lots of very pretty beach huts, painted an array of all the colours of the rainbow, making it such a fun place for the children to play in. Nature, once again, presented them with a really exciting playground 🙂 We even managed to locate a geocache in the dunes too.
The beaches are so vast here that there is more than enough room for everybody, and you feel that you are in your own bit of paradise even though it is the middle of the summer and peak holiday season. My mini men loved running along the beach (a game they did for ages), and I could let them run way into the distance as I could see them easily with it not being busy. They also got a great sense of freedom. The three also enjoyed running in amongst the dunes, hiding in them (I enjoyed that bit slightly less as they were vast!), and making up games using the slopes of the dunes. If you are ever in the south of Sweden, Skanör is a must visit place to experience.
Mud and dirt play have all the benefits of outdoor play and nature play, but there are specific reasons as to why letting your children play in the mud and dirt are good for them. Read on if you need a little convincing that all that cleaning afterwards is worthwhile!!
A lot of happy memories are made when play involves mud and dirt, and they remember these play times for a long time after.
It is very rare that a child turns down an opportunity to get muddy and dirty, although mini man no.2 did used to be that child, so I know it isn’t for everyone. However, even he, after watching his sister and twin brother, has now come to the conclusion that dirt play is huge fun (in the photo above he has painted his face with the stuff, when only a couple of years ago he wouldn’t have even touched it with his fingers!). However, generally, children are drawn to dirt, and they enjoy playing with it, and it makes them happy.
We are all too clean these days, which in turn has had a knock on effect of increasing illnesses and allergies. Dirt play exposes children to a healthy dose of bugs, and has been shown to boost children’s immunity.
Playing with mud and dirt are open ended….the possibilities are endless, they are not age defined, and it doesn’t have a predetermined role. It utilises and exercises a child’s creativity and imagination. It is amazing when it is used for art too.
Playing with mud and dirt (alongside the benefits of nature and outdoor play as a whole) has proven to reduce stress and anxiety.
It has been scientifically proven that dirt makes us happy! Dirt has microscopic bacteria in (mycobacterium vaccae) that increases our serotonin level in our brains, making us happy and relaxed. This can also improve our cognitive function…maybe pigs do have the right idea with all that rolling in mud!
There are ways we can encourage our children to get out there and get dirty by playing with mud. I have a few tips and ideas.
- Make a mud kitchen area. This doesn’t have to be complicated. We have an old table full of pots and pans, utensils, jugs, and a water table next to it that collects rain water that can then be used to make culinary delights, or potions.
- Set aside a patch of dirt. We have a patch of dirt where our trio can dig, scoop, and play in without fear of a slightly angry parent for digging up the lovely flowers 🙂
- Nature art. We often head outdoors and use mud and dirt in our creations. An example of this is you can make animals from mud, leaves, cones, sticks etc. Making art with mud is great fun.
- Muddy puddle jumping. Go on a muddy puddle jumping walk. There will be much shrieking, laughing, and splashing.
- Make dams/rivers. My trio love doing this and being able to watch the water change direction according what they are doing or building.
Ronneby Naturum is set inside Ronneby Brunnspark – a huge outdoor nature area, with many walks, woods, play parks, ponds, and a swimming pool. The nature centre itself literally took our breath away. It is filled with fantastic exhibitions for both young and old, but what grabbed our attention and made it so great for the trio, was that it is so interactive, hands on, and there is nothing out of bounds to little fingers that like touching everything! We have been to Ronneby Naturum a few times now, and one rainy afternoon we spent the entire time in there together with our nature journals, merrily sketching away.
As you enter Ronneby Naturum you immediately come across a very striking and visual exhibition (see the photo!) about lynx in Sweden. My three just stood their gawping! We have moved to a country with wildlife that really grabs their imaginations; bears, wolves, wild boar, älg (moose), and lynx are just some of what is here. However, these are all very hard to see in real life, especially with three young children who give the wildlife plenty of warning that they are approaching, with their noise levels 🙂 So, to walk in and see this life sized lynx was fantastic, and really brought it home to them what is lurking out there. We spent some time learning about them and looking at the areas where they live around and near us before being drawn further into the centre.
Another favourite was a transparent operational bee hive, which had an entrance/exit to the outdoors. This was so good for the children to watch the bees so close up. The emphasis is very much on being able to interact with exhibits. This may take the form of sticking your hand into a container “blind” to work out what’s in there with just a written clue, feeding the fish in the tanks, pressing buttons to hear various animal/bird sounds (twin 1 can never resist a button so he was in his element), or just picking up and handling various exhibits that are laid out.
In our county (Blekinge), we are surrounded by water, with islands everywhere making up the archipelago we live on. So, naturally there is a big exhibition about the coast and the marine life around our area. The older ones can learn more about the geology, the biodiversity, why it is such a sensitive area of nature, and how we can fish or sail whilst protecting it. Part of this exhibition is a sail boat which the children can board and pretend to sail the high seas. It has moving parts to handle, sails to move, and benches to lift, under which reside very cute and fluffy cuddly mice and seals. This was a revelation to us being allowed to climb on board such an exhibit, and when the staff saw my good old English reservation about children clambering over exhibits, they came and said the children must climb all over it!
The “lab” is another highlight of Ronneby Naturum. This is a separate little room that you can lose yourself in for a good few hours! It is full of stuffed wild animals from the forests, and exhibits you can pick up and handle. Anything from snake skins, to stag beetles, to animal bones, animal antlers, and a whole heap of samples you can examine under one of the microscopes in there. There are also a couple of aquariums in there. It is such a lovely place, with so much to see, and it is also very cosy!
I thoroughly recommend a visit to Ronneby Naturum (but check the opening times first as they alter drastically day to day, and season to season). You can easily spend a day in the park, with a visit to the naturum as part of it. You can wander the woods blueberry picking in the early autumn, have lunch on one of the fire pits, and feed the ducks also. There is also an ice cream kiosk serving delicious tasty treats too 🙂 Plus there is no charge for the park or its naturum. Ronneby Naturum is a place we will be returning to many many more times.
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?
- They need to be in the great outdoors. It is good for their development, self esteem, and makes them healthier.
- 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.
- 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.
- They are exercising! Need I say more 🙂
- 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.
- Hiking is known to be a stress buster, therefore increasing happiness and decreasing stress.
Tips to Survive Hiking with Kids.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
We have lived in Sweden for 1 year now, and throughout that year I have been on a very steep learning curve. I thought I would share with you the 15 main things I have learnt along the way so far 🙂
1. Everything takes time:
The Swedes are very laid back and they rarely hurry. This might be over a break at work (fika at work is very important), or installing a phone line and wi-fi (I think this took around 3-4 months after we moved in). So, to avoid frustration, adapt quickly, chill out, and go with the flow….it’ll happen one day.
2. You can’t buy Marmite or spray furniture polish here:
Plan in advance and get visitors flying out to see you to bring it, in bulk preferably, whether you need it or not. Then you can guarantee an ongoing supply.
3. All food is delicious:
But you will eat your own body weight in cinnamon buns within weeks of arriving here, and you will still want more.
This is very important here in Sweden, especially on a Saturday (lördagsgodis). To integrate fully here you need to take a bag at the pick and mix, and fill it every Saturday.
5. The seasons are all amazing:
But they can change rapidly – overnight! One day you will be wearing your shorts, the next day autumn will have arrived, with no gradual run up to it.
6. The people are really friendly:
They want to help you, and you will need their help too in order to navigate some of the systems in Sweden. For example, booking a doctor’s appointment or how to repaint your wooden home.
7. EVERYONE speaks English:
This is good when you are struggling with Swedish, but hard to learn if you are a little lazy. They speak it very well too, but will apologise for not finding one word in a sentence, when I can’t even remember what I was going to say at all in English!! They are very good at it.
8. Google translate will be your best friend:
You will have the app on your phone to read parking signs, help with the grocery shopping, and so that you stand a chance at doing your child’s reading homework. You will use it on your computer to translate all the school emails, and other emails that come your way from various places.
9. Predictive text will become your enemy:
As your phone doesn’t know what the hell you are trying to write, and what language you are trying to type in. Until, that is, it starts memorising Swedish words along the way (no one wants to type out “Försäkringskassan” or “Länsförsäkringar” more than necessary!).
10. Hard cash is surplus to requirements:
(unless you need a trolley – 10 SEK coin, or a swim locker – 10 SEK coin). EVERYTHING is done either by card or phone. There is none of this 50p charge for under £5. If you by a 1 SEK sweet (about 10p) you don’t need cash.
11. Hot dogs (korv med bröd):
Are a staple in your diet in Sweden. Sunny day on the beach? You make hot dogs. End of school term? You meet and cook hot dogs. The Prime Minister visits the island? Free hot dogs. You go out on a hike? You cook hot dogs. You get the idea?!! You always need an emergency stash in the freezer, it’s prevented me being caught out a few times now!
12. You need to bulk buy your alcohol:
The state run off licenses, Systembolaget, (the only place you can purchase it) are only in certain places (our nearest is about 20km away) so there is no “just popping out for a bottle of wine”. They’re also closed a lot, especially at weekends and holidays….so stock up, or as I do, make your own!
13. Send all your children’s clothes to school (and more!):
They will need standard clothes for the day, they will need outdoor gear (I mean proper stuff, like full sets of waterproofs, or complete snow gear etc). They WILL be going outdoors – both for play and lessons. There are dryer cupboards, but it is helpful for them to have complete spare sets too…..and I mean complete…gloves (they get very wet through in the winter, even ski gloves with little people), socks….you get the picture! You will be taking a lot of clothes backwards and forwards, oh and boots!!
This is very important in Sweden. It’s a chance to just enjoy each other’s company, but does usually involve coffee and a sweet treat.
15. Glögg and Pepparkakor:
Throughout December it is perfectly fine and normal to drink mulled wine (glögg) and eat thin ginger biscuits (pepparkakor) every day…..perfect and my idea of a cosy December!!
I hope you have enjoyed those facts, and learning a little more about Sweden 🙂
Today sees us celebrating one year since I flew all three children, myself, 3 car seats, and four overweight suitcases, over to join Dadda to start our new lives together living in Sweden. It seems a good time as any to weigh up the pros and cons of this move, and to look at whether we feel we are here for good (hopefully, barring any silly Brexit shenanigans!).
First off, living in Sweden, we gained 4 seasons!! The photos depict us losing/gaining various layers as the year progresses! We love being outdoors, and immersed in nature, and now we have the chance to experience all the seasons fully. It also makes you appreciate the summer quite a bit more. When the cold and snow came, life needed a little more planning (like digging the car out), but living in Sweden it does continue (unlike back in the UK where it stops just because it “might” snow!). The children have embraced everything that has been thrown at them weather wise, and we live with the motto “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”….we have a whole outdoor shop’s supply of outdoor gear now 🙂
The great outdoors, and the Swedish ethos of outdoor living, was a huge attraction for us and for living in Sweden. Don’t get me wrong, we did live in a beautiful part of the UK, but over here it is all much more natural, wild, and rugged. Being a larger country, with fewer people in, the natural spaces and wildlife are left well alone and thrive without such a heavy presence of mankind. There is wildlife and space all around you. You know that while you are sleeping, the local älg (moose) are checking out the golf course up the road, or the deer are stealing the carrots from your children’s snowmen in the garden! The public right of access allows everyone to roam freely, as long as they respect the land and nature. We have got to grips with outdoor fires, and enjoy using the regularly placed outdoor fire pits on our hikes. The beautiful landscapes, the freedom to roam where we want to adventure, and the provision of fire pits in the wild, have definitely fulfilled this reason for moving here. I think it is fair to say we have been taking full advantage of it all so far!
Let children be children!! I need to let them run, climb, and explore. In the UK, this got me a lot of frowns (especially in parks) when I deliberately made a choice not to helicopter parent any of them, as well as letting them use apparatus how they wanted to (provided no one else was affected!). Plus in the UK there are a lot of expectations of how children should behave, often making them suppress a lot of their childhood instinctive behaviours, and in turn dampen down their spirit, curiosity, and excitement about life. Over here it is a lot different. Children are expected to want to make a noise, run around, and climb. It’s quite common for my little lady to climb the trees in her playground, or twin 2 to be found dangling upside down precariously from a high bar, whereas in the UK those were a definite no no. They are outdoors in all weathers, not cooped up because of some wind and rain. The Swedes have clocked onto the fact that children don’t want to, and won’t sit still like statues, but instead they expect them to be moving. The best bit….no one’s looking at your parenting skills or your child and seeming to be criticising them, when children are just being children.
Living in Sweden we have all left lovely close friends behind. Only yesterday I opened a lovely parcel for the family from some close friends in the UK that made me a little weepy…..of the happy sort! A year on though and we have met some very special people here who have helped us to settle in and go out of their way to help us. They have become very good friends. Also, our summer was very busy with close friends from the UK visiting, and the whole year has seen many friends and family coming. There are five more sets of visitors booked for the next four months already! It was hard leaving family and friends behind, and we do miss them a lot, but we are so grateful for those who have offered us friendship here in Sweden 🙂
Having left a pressure cooker education system behind that has children exhausted, in tears, and feeling a failure, we are more than happy to embrace the Swedish positive approach to learning. School is important to us here as a place for the children to meet others their age and learn the language, coming from an English speaking household, so it serves us well too. It’s such a lovely environment….oh, apart from the no shoes indoors policy….I have to keep a better eye out for the holes in the socks situation! But on the flip side they love running and sliding down the corridors 🙂 The lovely island school has turned out to be just what we wanted for our trio, and more.
With three children, life can easily start feeling like a hectic race from the moment you get out of bed, until the moment you collapse into it at the end of the day. A huge reason for moving here was to slow right down, and commit to a much simpler way of living. It just seems a lot easier to do here. We have moved to a small island community, you can’t just pop to the shops to spend frivolously (the nearest are about a 30 minute drive), and there are no other material distractions, so life is lived at a more leisurely pace. We’re no longer sucked into things like a weekend chocca full of children’s parties, activities, or shopping. Instead it is full of family time, hiking, exploring, and lots of play!
The language is another harder aspect of living abroad. Our trio are now immersed in it during the week at school, but they are still on a very steep learning curve. Dadda and I are trying to teach ourselves. We are making a little headway, understand a lot more than we used to, and can make ourselves understood…albeit with a lot of gesticulation too. It’s hard learning a new language, but we try and at least begin to speak to the locals in Swedish (we’re lucky that so many are great at speaking English). The trouble starts when people then respond in Swedish, and we sometimes lose the thread of the conversation, but at least we have made some baby steps. With this comes other things that are very hard…school homework, when it does come home, takes twice as long as we have to understand it before we can help her with it. Everything takes longer due to translating along the way (very slowly) and sometimes this can be very frustrating. Something that is usually an easy task can seem to take forever.
Learning to drive on the other side of the road, in a car set up the opposite way, was another challenge too. You’d think a year on we’d be OK, but the other night I drove about 500m on the wrong side before realising, so some habits are hard to kick.
There has been a huge downside though, and that is the lack of grown up time for Dadda and I. There are no baby sitters here (yet, cross my fingers!), and we have moved abroad knowing there would be no one-night escapes to get a yearly lie in, or no time alone without the presence of our three cheeky monkeys. As much as I know the younger years fly past in the blink of an eye, I wouldn’t ever say no to some peaceful calm time together, enjoying something as a couple outside of our four home walls. However, for now, we will have to take the evenings collapsed on the sofa once we’ve tucked the trio up in bed.
If this family adventure does end up with us returning to the UK, at least there will be no “what ifs”, and so no regrets. We will have tried living in Sweden, and given it a go. The children will have experienced the world classroom, and a different culture, language, and lifestyle. Although I really hope we are here to stay now, as this was how we planned it. I think we have all adapted pretty well so far. We seem to be integrating a little. I can’t say enough though about how much we love living here, and I feel that maybe we have found our place in the world that we can call home 🙂