Why not get the kids to switch off the TV, computer and Playstation and head outside for a few hours, you will be amazed at how much better you feel!!
By Ingrid Wilkinson: Nature Play Volunteering Co-ordinator, Play England
How much time do your children spend on a computer, Playstation or watching TV? And when they’re not, do you feel a need to be ‘paying for’ entertainment or travelling to an organised activity?
There are many interesting things to do right on your very own door step or even in your garden or outside space. Why not consider spending time outdoors and getting in touch with nature? The benefits of being outdoors are immense with a wealth of research indicating exposure to the natural environment is really good for us and actually improves our health and wellbeing.
Children will love the opportunity to spend time as a family and begin to explore their local environment.
First and foremost get well wrapped up, you can play outside in all weathers as long as you are warm and not worrying about getting new clothes dirty or soiled. Keep aside some old clothes which can be used for exploring outdoors. A good investment would be to purchase some waterproofs and wellies, these will come in handy on many occasions!
Fun things to do and make in your own outside space
Gather up some old blankets, sheets, cushions etc that the kids can use to help make their den outdoors. Old carpet, cardboard boxes and tubing, netting and pegs will all come in useful. Once outside a good selection of branches, leaves and twigs will really give your den an adventurous feel. A good location for your den is essential – consider setting it up next to a hedge or under a tree!
This is a picture made from as many natural things as you can find outdoors, no right or wrong way to do it just an opportunity to be creative using leaves, twigs, berries, cones etc. It may be useful to use a sheet of card or the bottom of a cardboard box as your base, lay the bits and pieces that you find onto this or glue them in place.
Using an old shoe box or similar, put a double layer of kitchen paper on the bottom (to hold in any moisture) add a layer of sand (if you have it) followed by some soil, then begin to add in your own things such as shells, pebbles, moss, flowers, fir cones or you could even add a few small ornaments or people to really make your garden come to life.
All you need is some old clothes, big or small, a couple of garden canes or sticks to support your scarecrow, string, wool or straw for hair, a marker pen to make the face and something to stuff them with – an old quilt or pillow is ideal. Great fun and an additional member to add
to your family!
Get outdoors and explore your local environment
There are bound to be a range of natural areas surrounding where you live or even a short distance away by walking, bus, bike or car. Research what you have close by to where you live or better still just go off and explore. If you have a bike, consider a family bike ride. Arrange to get together with family and friends. Take a picnic blanket to sit on, football or bat and ball then go off and investigate! Kids love the uncertainty and excitement of a treasure hunt or not knowing exactly what they’re going to do or find.
Some fun things to consider:
See how many different types of leaf you can find, then make up a game or use them for a picture when you return home.
Start looking under rocks, stones, around trees or on walls, you will be amazed at the bugs living all around us.
Take some paper and crayons out with you and try some bark rubbing on a range of different trees.
Build an obstacle course using everything to do with nature then have a competition to see who
can get through it the fastest or without touching certain things!
Climb a tree
When did you last attempt to climb a tree? See how many trees you can find in your local park which are suitable for climbing and have a go!
Look for different species of wild flowers, animals, birds or insects. Take a camera with you and make some notes on what you find.
Streams or ponds
Find a local stream or pond and build a dam, explore in the water – see how many living creatures you can find.
Go on a walk through the trees or park looking for imaginary tigers and lions.
Make fairy houses in the woods or parkland using twigs, leaves, flowers and grass.
To find out more, visit www.playengland.net