Many of my childhood memories involve the great outdoors but as I grew up I have to admit, I became a little lazy. When I had my first child I didn’t put a great deal of emphasis on outdoor play, but now a few years down the line and mother to a 6 year old and 4 year old, I am really trying to change things for the better.
The benefits of outdoor play are well researched and documented, showing just how much of a positive impact spending time exploring nature can have on all aspects of children’s lives. NHS guidelines state that children under 5 need three hours of exercise a day. The exercise should be vigorous enough to get their hearts and lungs working hard; activities such as running, climbing, jumping and digging will achieve this. However, it is not just the physical benefits that make outdoor play so important for children, it also does wonders for their emotional health. Sadly more and more children are experiencing stress and suffering from conditions like depression or anxiety. Physical activity in the form of outdoor play and contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and have a positive impact on conditions like anxiety.
Yoga philosophy recognises that just being in nature promotes prana, our life force energy. It works mainly through the breath. Taking a big deep lungful of fresh air, smelling the cut grass, the flowers, the woods, not only helps clear the head but literally increases the oxygen you are taking into your body - helping every cell heal and rebuild itself optimally.
Sometimes we all just need to take a moment, a pause from our busy, hectic, constantly connected lives and remind ourselves of how small we are and how vast and beautiful the earth around us is. Clambering about an ancient forest certainly helps put a few things into perspective. You can even use your yoga practice to help you really appreciate these adventures. It’s easy - just focus on the here and now while you are walking. What can you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Touch? Your mind will probably start to wander; you’ll get distracted by noisy thoughts, but try to practice bringing it back to your breath, reigning in those wandering thoughts and allowing yourself to just be in the moment.
In a bid to improve the health of our children, my husband and I now make sure that we get the kids outside every weekend (weather permitting, although a little rain won’t hurt!). This is even more important now both children are at school. I’ll admit, at first we were a little clueless- we didn’t really know where to go or what to do. It didn’t help that there was a LOT of protesting: ‘Do we have to go out?’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘This is BORING!’, ‘It’s too muddy’, etc. But over time it has got easier. In fact the kids now love it and it has become a huge part of our family life. They can now walk, run, jump and climb for hours (with the odd little snack stop).
Here are some tips on how to encourage your little ones to enjoy the great outdoors:
- Build up the time gradually, starting with short walks to local parks for a game of hide and seek or tag
- Get them involved in the decision making process; they will enjoy it much more if they feel they chose to go there
- Explore new places instead of going time and time again to the same place, or explore the same place in a different way. Next time you head to your local park why not take the bikes with you, a Frisbee or even a little bucket to collect nature’s treasures
- Create tick sheets at home of things they can look for on their nature trail. This encourages them to get off the beaten track and take notice of their surroundings.
- Invest in a few kids’ gardening tools (they can be purchased very cheaply from the supermarket) and let them dig up a small patch in the garden and plant bulbs or seeds
- Let them know that it’s ok to get muddy!
- When you’re stuck for ideas, there’s always something fun and interesting going on at your local National Trust property, especially during the school holidays. Raft building, pond dipping, bug hunts; they run activities for all ages. We found family membership soon pays for itself.
- Reward an action packed day outdoors with a little treat or a pub lunch
We walk in the woods, climb the rocks at the beach, explore castle ruins and huge parks, and always make it an adventure. The most important thing is to have fun, because if the kids see you enjoying yourself it makes it all the more enjoyable for them. So this weekend switch off the screens, pack the wellies (and hopefully, the sunscreen?!) and just get out there. Breathe in the nature. Take that moment. It will help restore, rejuvenate and refresh you and your family. And switching off your mobile certainly helps.
Further Inspiration for Wild Adventures with your Little Explorers:
National Trust www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Forestry Commission England www.forestry.gov.uk
Woodland Trust http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/
Sussex Wildlife Trust www.sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk
Child Friendly Brighton www.childfriendlybrighton.co.uk
Day out with the Kids www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk
Helen was born in London but has always been mesmerised by the sea and that was one of the many reasons for her decision to study at Brighton University many moons ago. Whilst she left this wonderful city briefly, she finally moved back just over 3 years ago and is now delighted to call Hove her home. She set up the Brighton & Hove Working Mums group on Facebook over a year ago, as a safe environment for working mums to get advice without judgement and promote their businesses. A mother herself, of two gorgeous children, she spends her time copywriting and blogging about anything she feels passionate about.
Visit the Lushtums website for information about all our teacher training courses and to find a Lushtums class near you.
Posted 6th May 2016 by Becca Thomas- LushTums