Step away from the remote… we’re going outside
How many of us have watched our children rush into the house and turn on the television or laptop and lamented our own childhood? Climbing trees, making mud pies, catching tadpoles, building sleds out of old pallets and spending hours playing sardines with other kids we barely knew - it feels like our kids are missing out on an important part of childhood by staying indoors.
Outdoor play offers opportunities for creativity and adventure that you simply can't get in the home. It develops fine motor skills, helps social interaction, naturally enables physical exercise, has unparalleled health benefits and provides valuable life lessons that help children understand both themselves and the world around them. Can you really learn that through watching CBeebies or playing games on social network sites?
Of course it is not as simple as just switching off and telling the kids to get out of the house. The difficulty we have today is that our culture works hard to keep everybody indoors. TV's, computers, over-protective parents worried about 'stranger danger', health and safety regulations and increased accidents on the road. What can we do? Well, as parents we need to find the balance between modern day living and allowing our children the same opportunities we had. If you can get the laptop back from the kids for 5 minutes it doesn't take much research to find outdoor activities that can inspire, educate and get the whole family moving.
Did you see I mentioned family? That's right. It's not just about the kids enjoying the outdoors, these days it's about all of you putting down your phones and tablets and getting some fresh air and exercise. Whether that comes from throwing a frisbee on the beach or heading out on one of the many car-free bike trails in the UK, there is loads to do. If the kids protest that this all sounds boring, throw a little adventure into the mix and challenge them to try abseiling, bouldering, coasteering - all of these will have you buzzing with adrenaline. Too precarious? Think again. The Health and Safety Executive advocate experiences that balance the opportunities of play with the opportunity to learn about boundaries and dangers. "When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits. No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in cotton wool".
Jumping off cliffs into icy cold water doesn't suit every family. Those with small kids might prefer to harness the imagination of their youngsters and head to a local forest to explore. The Forestry Commission has lots of downloadable activities that can help you structure your visit - from tick sheets to drawing ideas. Most parents will find that nothing pleases their little ones as much as the chance to play chase and hide behind trees.
We could forever hark back to our own childhood adventures, but perhaps we should be spending that time making sure our own children are getting the chance to explore and learn in the great outdoors.
In my previous job as a nursery manager I attended courses for child protection and health and safety. No amount of theory can prepare you for having your own children or looking after others, but it does help!
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