Category

environment

Girl-on-bike

Building confidence through adventurous play and outdoor learning

By | children's health, environment, fun for children, Mental health, Playing
by Harriet Kelly
Head of Early Years at Rowan Preparatory School, Claygate, Surrey

“Over the last two decades, children have lost almost eight hours of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play a week.” (Elkind, 2008)

Play, particularly explorative play that encourages curiosity, has physical, social, cognitive and emotional benefits. When children are allowed to be adventurous, they develop the ability to manage risk, be resilient and to solve problems. They develop a strong sense of self-belief in their own decision making and build the fine and gross motor skills essential for later life.

Preschools that prioritise physical development have the understanding that it is crucial for children to be in an environment that enables the enhancement of the foundation skills needed to begin their school journey. They will provide children with endless opportunities to develop and enhance both their gross and fine motor skills. High quality gross motor provision could include activities such as soft play, trampolining, crawling through tunnels, balancing on benches, playing on a seesaw, balancing on balance bikes, cycling, climbing on logs, swinging, rolling tyres, travelling up and down hills, mixing in mud kitchens, transporting larger buckets of water, sweeping and building with heavier wooden bricks. These should all be appreciated and valued in the early years and beyond.

girl-tyreSimple activities such as tree climbing and den building are rich in learning opportunities and should not be underestimated. When climbing a tree, children should be encouraged to consider their physical space, where their feet need to be placed, whether they feel comfortable and how high they think they should climb in order to stay safe. Parents should always be there to supervise but should contemplate the level of support given in order to develop their child’s own risk awareness and physical resilience. The simple act of climbing trees builds upper body strength, core stability and balance which are all gross motor skills which support progress in writing and Reception readiness.

At our preschool, children enjoy a wide range of indoor and outdoor physical activities. Play-based learning encourages them to make decisions and take risks; we see their sense of self-belief and confidence grow as they are provided these opportunities within a safe and supported environment. Learning outside the classroom is encouraged throughout the day, with regular visits to Forest School, and outdoor classroom space.

Developing gross motor control is not the only early physical skill that supports writing development. Writing requires children to control both sides of their bodies, so opportunities for bilateral movements, such as kicking a ball, where children have to cross over the mid-line of their bodies, are of great benefit. If you are waiting in a queue why not set your child a challenge? Can they lift their knee and tap their right hand to left knee and then swap?

Building fine motor control and dexterity are other early development goals that are vital for a smooth transition into Reception. Excellent early years providers will give opportunities to turn keys in locks, pop bubble wrap, build towers, use tweezers and chopsticks, use cooking utensils, do up zips and buttons, isolate fingers when playing in foam or flour, play with putty, mark make while laying on their front and mark make using chalk, pens, crayons, paint or pencils. Playing games that encourage finger isolation can help to develop the ‘dynamic tripod grasp’ where the writing tool is held between the thumb and the index and middle fingers. This should be developed between the ages of three and four years. Another quick activity is to hold up a number of fingers behind your back and ask your child to show on their hand how many fingers you are holding up, to keep their interest you can swap roles and do the guessing yourself. Singing nursery rhymes such as ‘Tommy Finger’ also encourages finger isolation and dexterity.

girls-tyresThere is so much more to writing than tracing and forming letters. The simple act of taking your child to the woods gives them the chance to explore, climb trees, collect leaves and acorns, swing from branches, carry and roll logs and dig. These simple activities can all contribute to your child’s ability to be able to physically write when they enter their Reception year. Why not enhance your trip to the woods by taking some potato peelers and whittling freshly cut branches? A simple activity that teaches perseverance and concentration, requires force and control and uses both sides of the body, supporting progression in writing without actually writing.

The confidence that stems from adventurous activities is second to none. There is a certain sparkle of pride in children’s eyes when they climb high up in the tree; or remove all of the bark when whittling, or build a den, or roll a log and dig down deep to find a worm. These simple, sustainable, unstructured play activities should not be lost as adventure is a vital part of early childhood and is integral to developing early literacy skills such as writing.

Rowan Preparatory School in Claygate, Surrey, welcomes parents who would like to see how adventurous play and outdoor learning are enabling confident young learners.

Visit www.rowanprepschool.co.uk to discover more about their Preschool and Early Year provision and to arrange a visit.

30 things to do before you’re five

By | Education, environment, fun for children

Following two years of disruption to daily routines, parents can now show their children new experiences they have missed out on.

Together with Nick Jr. UK Blue’s Clues & You series and a panel of celebrity parents, they have put together this ‘bucket list’ to get children out exploring and to help feed their curiosity.

From climbing trees and going underwater for the first time, to building a sandcastle on the beach and camping in the garden, the activities are all based around the simple pleasures that come with being able to explore.

1. Pebble painting
2. Feed the ducks
3. Write a letter to a family member and post it
4. Go underwater
5. Paddle in the sea
6. Get dressed up in fancy dress
7. Litter pick
8. Go to a castle
9. Have a water fight and soak your parents from head to toe
10. Go mudlarking and see who can find the grossest thing
11. Get some chalk and do some pavement art
12. Spend a night camping in your back garden
13. Ride on a scooter
14. Climb a tree
15. Go to the park
16. Explore the neighbourhood
17. Find stones and leaves and make a collage
18. Watch a film at the cinema
19. Go to the beach and build a sandcastle
20. Kick a ball around
21. Learn catch
22. Visit the farm/zoo
23. Host a picnic with your teddy bears
24. Bake something with parents or grandparents
25. Fly a kite
26. Face painting
27. Build a den
28. Blow dandelions
29. Make a mini beast hotel
30. Make pizza.

eco-image

How to raise eco-friendly children

By | Education, environment

With the global population growing every year, it’s becoming more important than ever to raise children to care for the environment. Here, James Partridge from Greenshop, (www.greenshop.co.uk) offers some tips on encouraging your children to be eco-friendly.

Data from Population Matters has shown that the global population is going up by 80 million every year, meaning it could reach 9.7 billion by 2050, meaning we might put more of a strain on the earth’s resources. This has led to a conversation around how to bring up the next generation so that they care for and prioritise the planet. To help you understand how to encourage your children to be eco-friendly and enjoy caring for the environment, we’ve brought together some tips to get you started.

By spending time outside with your children, getting them started in gardening, and showing them how much fun it can be to learn about the planet, you can ensure that your little ones will grow up knowing about the importance of preserving the environment.

Take your family outside
The easiest way to get your children enthusiastic about the environment is to get them outside and into nature. Not only does this encourage them to care about the planet, but it also brings a whole host of mental and physical health benefits, as noted by the charity Mind (www.mind.org.uk) So, take the whole family for a walk, play in the park, or sign your little ones up to an outside activities group.

While you’re outside, you can also talk to your children about nature, and it’s a great time to get them learning about insects, plants, trees, and birds. This will introduce your children to the environment and get them into the habit of exploring the landscape around them.

Take your children out to see animals
Being able to be around animals is extremely good for children and can encourage them to take an interest in the natural world, teaching them to protect it for wildlife as well as ourselves. Some fun activities to take part in are visiting wildlife sanctuaries and going on bird watching trips. There are also petting farms that will let your children meet and learn about animals, and wildlife trails where they can look for beetles, snails, and squirrels.

When your children are old enough to help with an animal’s care, it can be excellent to get a pet. This can show your children how to be responsible for their four-legged companion and can be a fun way for them to get in touch with nature.

Do some gardening
Another great way to introduce your children to environmental awareness and enjoyment of nature is to start doing some gardening with them. They will enjoy planting seeds and watching them grow, learning about all the different tasks that need to be done in the garden throughout the seasons, and watering the flowers.

Spring is a good time to begin choosing seeds and plants to try out, and easy ways to start are with herbs such as parsley and basil, or fruit plants such as strawberries. Flowers are also an option, but edible choices such as nasturtiums are good options as children can enjoy tasting them when they have grown.

Teach your children to recycle
Recycling is another activity that’s accessible to children and can get them excited about the environment. Showing them which items can be recycled, and how to split everything up into categories (such as paper, glass, and plastic) is a fun way to start them on their eco-friendly journey.

You can also tell them about all the different things that can be made from the recycled materials, and for older children, it might be a good idea to make them responsible for one of the recycling sections, paper recycling for example.

Show children how to mend their things
Mending things is an important skill, and a key way to get our belongings to last longer rather than throwing them away. This creates less waste, and can be a fun DIY activity to involve your children in. You can also find patterns and new techniques to use when mending clothes and other belongings, in order to make them look unique and have more fun with the mending process.

These are all great activities for a rainy day and can keep children occupied for a while as well as teaching important skills. Try looking on YouTube for mending and craft projects – as well as repairing, you can try turning old clothes, cardboard, and paper scraps into new craft projects.

There are lots of ways to encourage your children to be more eco-friendly, so that they will have a lifelong love of nature. Getting them outside, involving them in gardening, and showing them how to care for their belongings and do simple actions like recycling, can all contribute to them growing up to be eco-conscious adults in the future. It will also open up some fun, engaging pastimes for you and your little ones to enjoy.

Greenshop is an ideal starting point to source organic, fair trade, free from and ethically sensitive products and we are passionate about conservation and reducing the use of plastic, bringing many solution products to our customers. www.greenshop.co.uk

 

boys-forest

Supporting children’s physical and mental health through outdoor adventure play

By | children's health, environment, fun for children, Mental health
by Melanie Parr
Managing Director, Lymley Wood CIC

The value of outdoor play and outdoor learning, getting out and about, moving their bodies and connecting to nature, is huge.Children experience freedom when they play outside. Outdoor play is a natural way for children of all ages to do physical activity, to exercise and stay fit. It’s good for children’s physical health, it improves brain development, it can boost mental wellbeing and improve sleep quality.

Outdoor play is particularly beneficial during times of anxiety, stress and adversity – it provides a sense of control and independence, it helps children make sense of things they find hard to understand, it supports their coping and resilience and it helps them to understand risk and their own capabilities.

According to the Open University’s OPENspace Research Centre, there is considerable evidence suggesting that time spent outdoors, in nature, increases life expectancy, improves well-being, reduces symptoms of depression and increases a child’s ability to function in school.

In addition to better physical health, teachers report improved concentration, better ability to focus and learn, increased productivity, better behaviour, and the fostering of more positive relationships between adults and children and amongst peer groups, when children are more active and spend more time outside during the day.

Time spent playing outdoors is also thought to help relieve stress and anxiety by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol in the brain. Time to have fun just playing, enjoying life in the outdoors and doing something that makes them feel good! Through this they can feel balanced and refreshed and more ready to learn.

“There is a natural simplicity to nature; it is far more tactile and tangible than the classroom. It’s a leveller; it strengthened my character and set me back on track. That’s why we should focus on wellbeing and encouraging our children to connect with the natural world. I’m not suggesting the abolition of the exam system, but we could certainly cut back to allow more time for children to explore the world around them.” Ben Fogel – broadcaster and writer.

Claims that connecting children with the outdoors is good for their social and emotional development, improved mental health and psychological and emotional wellbeing, are backed with clear evidence. “We now have conclusive evidence that sport and physical activity are clearly linked to mental wellbeing,” says Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England insight director.

One influential study (Psychiatric Times) measuring the effect of regular exercise on children with ADHD strengthens these claims. Ultimately, this study concluded that “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may be an additional treatment modality for children with ADHD” and can be of benefit to all children generally. Most children at this age are naturally curious, and an outdoor environment really stimulates all their senses and lets their imagination go wild.

Exposure to nature has a soothing effect on all children, and can reduce hyperactivity, especially in those suffering from ADHD. Being outside in natural sunlight allows our bodies to naturally produce vitamin D, which releases the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. This helps to regulate emotion and mood and is linked with happiness and relief from depression. Lack of sufficient time outdoors puts children at risk of vitamin D deficiency, because the sun is the best source for vitamin D production and it isn’t found in many foods. New research also backs up that exposure to microbes found in woodland soil can actually build immunity and act as an antidepressant.

Outdoor, active, ‘free play’ provides a powerful way of working with children and young people that supports optimal social and emotional development. Free play, getting outside and exploring nature all makes for healthier and happier minds and consequently happier well balanced, resilient children, who are more able to deal with challenges that life may hold.

Oh and let’s remember that playing and exploring outdoors is excellent fun!

Lymley Wood are taking referrals for teenagers onto their Wild Teens programme and offer regular weekly groups for tots and primary aged children. www.lymleywood.co.uk

Sources: www.pentagonplay.co.uk Mental Health Benefits of Exercise in Children, Psychiatric Times, Vol 32 No 1, Volume 32, Issue 1 Mind & Brain/Depression and Happiness – Raw Data “Is Dirt the New Prozac?” by Josie Glausiusz, Discover Magazine, July 2007 Issue

 

eco warrior ABC

How to inspire a ‘green’ mindset in your children

By | Education, Green
by Fleur Wells
Parent, Teacher, Young Climate Warriors Trustee

To paraphrase Whitney Houston; the children are our future! A cliché perhaps, but like all good clichés, it’s rooted in truth. In a short while, our children could be the independent decision-makers, teachers, activists, enthusiasts, policy-makers, and catalysts-for-change we hope they will be. The onus is therefore on us, as parents, the main educators in their lives, to inspire, teach and provide the toolkits to live in an eco-positive and sustainable way.

So, no pressure then.

How can parents help their children have a green mindset?

No one wants to be a nag; we all get sick of hearing the sound of our own voices doing that, and it is only a short-term approach, enforcing uninspired, duty-boundness. If we want our children to inspire others, we must, of course, inspire them.

Perhaps some shock factor, to get the sustainable juices going? There’s plenty to doom-scroll online if you’re looking for something to jolt them into action, in the hope of inspiring them to be the next Greta. While alarmism is often a very effective stimulus, it is not the only and certainly not the best tool in your kit. Great for attention grabbing, but it can also contribute to a great deal of counter-productive anxiety, and even worse have a negative impact on mental health.

So, if as a parent you are looking for positive messaging about climate change – to encourage and empower, rather than potentially trigger eco-anxiety, Young Climate Warriors is one of a number of fun, matter-of-fact and practical resources available to you, and for free.

Its purpose is to inspire young people to want to get involved and to give it a go, whilst amplifying their voices in a way that suits them; there’s no dry whitepapers to slog through, neither are there the angst-inducing clickbait articles. Set up in February 2019, by Katrina Judge – with a child-friendly website (www.youngclimatewarriors.org) and weekly challenges, it encourages children and families across the country to choose that ‘green mindset’.

Katrina explains; “I felt compelled to convert my feelings into actions and channel my energies into a venture to try and help combat climate change.”

By offering children fun, weekly climate-change related challenges the initiative inspires carbon-busting action around the home, encourages climate change discussion, and sparks creative and imaginative activities in nature.

The team of children and families who subscribe for free (who are affectionately referred to as Young Climate Warriors) are making a positive impact through individual actions, tweaks and lifehacks. The collective power and good-feeling generated by these micro-actions are shared and amplified within their communities, through school assemblies, often featured in local press, and of course celebrated on the YCW social media channels (Instagram: @youngclimatewarriors and Facebook: /youngclimatewarriors).

Speaking from personal experience, my own two children (10 years and 7 years), take great pleasure in planning family meals using locally-produced and in-season vegetables. This was originally inspired by an activity set by Young Climate Warriors in June 2020, and has now become something of a Sunday afternoon ritual as they flick through cookbooks, do a little research on a nearby device, create a colourful meal plan and scribble out shopping lists for the week. This has two major benefits. One, it saves me a job. Two, it gets us chatting and thinking together so we can make the best environmentally friendly decision we can.

Some Young Climate Warriors challenges are easier than others, the ebbs and flows of life mean they don’t always present the easiest option, and we don’t always get it right. Back to the family meal analogy – the produce of the week may not be everyone’s favourite, or the final dish not something any of us think we fancy, it’s not the most convenient option, but we do our best, and we discuss it. The very act of mindfully planning our meals in a sustainable way is both cathartic and it allows us to slow down and think about how we shop and eat.

It’s very real and practical, and it involves the children in such a way that they enjoy ownership and not feel they are being preached to. It’s real, it’s local, it’s immediate and it’s relevant. It’s not crusty grown-ups and politicians talking around a nebulous concept. It helps to connect the dots.

Young Climate Warriors helps to do just that with all of its challenges – connect the dots between the very real effects of climate change and what we do, and can do better in our day-to-day lives. Young Climate Warriors believes that the best way to engage and activate our children is to make it fun and satisfying to be part of the change.

Children always learn by example and early behaviours and beliefs will be ingrained and carried through into adult life. However, by taking part and subscribing to Young Climate Warriors as parents and primary caregivers, we may also learn a thing or two from the children as well.

www.youngclimatewarriors.org

Sun protection – myth busting

By | environment, Health, play, Safety, Summer

I can’t get sun damage on a cloudy summer day.
Even if you can’t see any blue sky, a significant amount of UV rays can still get through the clouds, so it’s best to apply sunscreen if you’re out and about during the summer.

I can’t get sunburnt in the UK; the UV rays aren’t strong enough.
Wrong! Always protect your skin. Even in the UK.

My sunscreen says it’s water resistant, so I don’t need to reapply regularly.
Despite what the packaging promises, swimming, sweating, rubbing, or towelling down means you will end up removing the sunscreen from your body. Always reapply after sporting activity or at least every two hours.

My skin is only damaged if it turns red.
Sunburn and skin peeling is the extreme end of skin damage from UV rays. When the skin ‘tans’ this is damaging your skin and putting you at risk of skin cancer in the future.

I can’t get sunburnt through windows.
Wrong! UVA radiation can penetrate glass. This can be a car window, or even your windows at home. Be sure to protect your skin if you’re on long car journeys or spend a lot of time sat by sunny windows.

SPF25 is half the SPF protection of SPF50.
SPF50 does not offer twice the protection of SPF25 even though it offers a higher level of protection, so don’t be fooled!

Common missed spots for sunscreen:

Eyelids
The sun’s rays can damage the eyes and surrounding skin over time. The skin of the upper and lower eyelids is thin and fragile, requiring protection. Eyelid cancers account for about 5-10% of all skin cancers and occur most frequently on the lower eyelid. The best defence against this is to wear sunglasses that offer adequate protection against UVA and UVB which cover as much skin as possible.

Back of knees
The legs are the commonest anatomical site for melanoma in females. It is important to reapply sunscreen regularly to achieve the SPF on the bottle, this is particularly true if you are in and out of the water or sweating excessively.

Ears
The ears are a high-risk area, particularly for non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These occur as a result of UV exposure from sunlight. Skin cancer on the ears is more common in men than women.

Tops of feet, sides of face, hands and underarms
The same principles apply for all these areas of the body. Any areas of skin that are exposed to UV sunlight should ideally be protected by sunscreen. This should be broad spectrum, containing UVA and UVB protection, with an SPF of at least 30. Try not to miss any areas and leave your skin vulnerable to sunburn.

Scalp and hair
Skin cancers can develop on the scalp. Men, with reduced or thinning scalp hair may be particularly vulnerable to sun damage in this area and should ideally wear a hat. For women, ensure that sunscreen is applied adequately to the margin of the hairline.

Lips
The lips are often an overlooked site for non-melanoma skin cancer. These most commonly affect men over the age of 50 years with fair skin types. The lower lip tends to get more sunlight than the upper lip and is therefore more likely to be affected by skin cancer. Don’t forget to use a photoprotective lip block or lip balm to block UV rays.

The V (neck and chest)
Dermatologists advise that sunscreens should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors and then regularly reapplied every two hours. One way to avoid missing areas may be to apply sunscreen before getting dressed.

Source: www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk

Why going wild is the answer

By | children's health, environment, Green, Mental health, Uncategorized
by Richard Irvine
author of Wild Days and Forest Craft

This very strange year has seen many of us desperate to take whatever opportunities we can to be outdoors, exploring our local neighbourhoods. Wilderness might not always be on the doorstep, but little bits of wild nature can be found everywhere – whether you live in a bustling city or its suburbs, or close to farms, forests or the coast. There are adventures to be had in parks, on city streets, canal tow-paths, riverbanks, beaches, woods, moorland and country walks.

All that is needed is a bit of curiosity, a playful attitude and maybe a tiny bit of know-how. Paying attention to the ordinary and everyday that might have escaped our notice for years, can open the door to tiny adventures close to home. Outdoor play is not just a ‘nice to have’, it is essential for children to experience the world to learn about it and their place in it.

Learning about our neighbour-hood nature connects us to where we live and makes us feel more at home. The more time spent outdoors, the more you notice the patterns of the changing seasons; get to know the sights, sounds and smells of your local wildlife; and enjoy ‘slow time’ as you lose yourself in the fascination of nature. Creativity, resilience and positive attitudes towards the environment and exercise are forged in outdoor play. Understandable fears of busy roads and encounters with strangers can make parents and carers feel anxious about letting their children and young people play out of sight but it is vital that all young people have opportunities for unstructured outdoor adventures.

A simple walk in the park can be transformed into an engaging, playful experience with a mission to collect materials to make natural art or to make a wreath at home. A bit of string and some twigs can be transformed into boats to sail on the pond or canal with ‘jelly baby’ passengers to keep safe and dry if possible. Playing Pooh sticks, racing marbles down a hill and just gazing up at the clouds can turn reluctance into enthusiasm when it comes to getting children outside.

On your wild days out, it is very important to remember that the world is not a playground for humans but the habitat for us and all other living things. At the very least, we should try and leave as little trace of our activities as possible. It would be fantastic if we could leave things in an even better state than we found them and to have a positive impact on our environment.

To be safe in the world, young people need to be allowed to take risks. If they grow up insulated from potential harm, they may find it difficult to assess what is safe or dangerous for themselves and not learn to ask the important “What if…” questions that help us to consider the consequences of our actions and to make good decisions. Some of the best childhood adventures can involve fires, tools and the chance of getting lost, but all can be undertaken safely with trust, practice and common sense. You know your young people and context. My plea is to let them explore, play and experiment under the open skies. Join in alongside or keep an eye from a distance but try to relax, enjoy being outside with them and remember that the benefits of outdoor play and adventure will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.

Richard Irvine is a qualified teacher with a love of the outdoors and over 20 years’ experience in the field of outdoor learning. His specialist knowledge of woodlands and practical education comes from a love of the outdoors and many years working for forestry and education organisations. An accomplished greenwood carver, he brings woodcraft into his work wherever possible through progressing children’s skills at Forest School and running professional development workshops and recreational carving days for adults.
He is the author of Wild Days and Forest Craft from GMC Publications. He lives in Devon.

summer-camp

Holiday camps – great for children and parents!

By | environment, family, fun for children, Green, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized

The long school summer holidays are lovely for so many reasons; particularly because you and your children have a break from the school routine. There is time to relax and be less governed by the clock. However, unfortunately most working parents don’t get six weeks off, so finding childcare can be difficult.

Even if you are lucky enough not to actually ‘need’ childcare, children (and parents!) may enjoy some time apart. Children often miss not spending time with people their own age during the holidays; hence the dreaded
“I’m bored” phrase being uttered!

Many parents find holiday clubs or play schemes are the answer. They are very flexible so you can book them for the whole of the working week, or just a couple of days each week, depending on your needs. Most run for similar times to the working day with some time either side to allow you to get to and from work.

They are normally based at schools or leisure centres in the area, as they already have the facilities needed on site and are easily accessible. Some clubs are based around a particular sport or hobby whilst others allow children to do lots of different activities. You may find that due to the better weather in the summer holidays, some are also based at locations that allow children to have fun outside or in the water – but obviously there will always have to be a plan B in case of horrendous weather!

There is a variety of clubs to choose from; some may offer the chance to try lots of different sports and hobbies during the week, whilst others will concentrate on something specific such as drama, football, netball or trampolining. Children may want to enhance the skills they already have in a sport or hobby, or it can be a chance to try something completely new. Younger children may enjoy a variety of sports and crafts during the week, and you may even find one in particular that sparks a new interest that they want to continue, after the summer.

The summer is obviously the best time to try watersports for the first time. Children can learn to windsurf, kayak, sail, or paddle board. If children can learn a new skill it can really increase their self-esteem and confidence, and there can’t be many better things to enjoy in the sun than the thrill of learning a new watersport.

It can be hard to find ways to keep children active and occupied during the summer holidays, whether you are a working parent or not. At holiday clubs children will engage in physical activity and there will virtually be no time in front of screens. Children will be able to participate in a wider variety of activities that they may not normally have access to.

Children who have had friendship problems at school, have a chance to start afresh in a holiday club. They will be with children their own age and they have the chance to make new friends and socialise with children they may not necessarily go to school with. They are likely to increase in confidence as they make new friends, and this can continue when they go back to school as they will undoubtedly be more confident socially.

In addition to the social benefits, children will also learn new skills. Clubs may offer the chance to try things that children have never had opportunity to try before such as handball, trampolining or even archery and they will leave with a positive feeling of accomplishment.

Finally, clubs also provide peace of mind for parents as they know their children are enjoying themselves in a safe environment. As children come to the end of their primary school age they may want to be out by themselves a little bit more, and meet their friends in the park for example, but while they are in a holiday club you know they are safe, happy and having fun.

This summer, more than ever, the most important thing is that children have fun; it is their holiday from school after all! This last year has been stressful for everyone and children have had their own stresses at school, with constant talk of them being ‘behind’ and the need to ‘catch up’. They need this summer to have fun, relax and create new memories, whether that is playing football with new-found friends, rehearsing, and putting on a play, sitting down enjoying some crafts, or learning to paddle board.

There is always great demand for holiday childcare particularly as last year’s summer was so uncertain, so do book your childcare as soon as you can and then relax and enjoy the holidays!

 

 

Outdoor adventure is the key to happier, healthier children

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Green, Health, Playing, Relationships

Spending time outdoors is the key to happier, healthier and more confident children. However, only one in five of them regularly play outside, says leading youth charity YHA (England and Wales).

The charity says that the opportunity to have adventures in the outdoors is vitally important to developing young people’s confidence, resilience and ambition for the future. Studies also show that just five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve a child’s mental wellbeing.

To help more young people benefit from the transformational power of travel and adventure, YHA has launched a campaign – The Adventure Effect. It hopes the campaign will inspire young people and their families to get outdoors.

Karen Pine, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, who has supported YHA with the development of The Adventure Effect, said: “If we want to raise children to be healthy physically, mentally, socially and emotionally, we must look at the experiences they’re having during childhood. Outside, spontaneous experiences in nature are critical to their development.”

She explained: “Being unable to get outside for a prolonged period can lead to stress and depression, which sadly besets many people
in our society today. Time outdoors spent having adventures in nature helps to build resilience – which is our ability to bounce back in life. This is an incredibly important skill.” Highlighting the impact of people not having the opportunity to access travel and the outdoors, YHA confined the professional adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys to a room for three days. In contrast, the film also follows five young people during their first trip to the Lake District and demonstrates their personal transformation during that time.

The thought-provoking social experiment has been documented in The Adventure Effect film. Watch the film and learn more about The Adventure Effect at www.yha.org.uk/adventureeffect

The film charts Alastair’s increasing frustration and unhappiness at having the opportunity for adventure removed from him. On day
two of the experiment he admits to ‘feeling low’.

Commenting on the social experiment, Alastair said: “I am delighted to support YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign. Being inside the room was a big learning experience for me. Three days seems like nothing but when the ability to go outside whenever you want, and the mental stimulation that goes with it, is taken away from you it is a huge shock. I was really surprised to discover I use my phone too much and use it to fill in any quieter times during the day. I also realised that I take my ability to have adventures – big and small, for granted.”

He added: “Adventure is as much about your attitude as anything else. Be curious and seize the opportunities that are available to you. YHA makes it easy, cheap and accessible for everyone to get their adventure started.”

As part of YHA’s Adventure Effect campaign, adventurer Alastair Humphreys has shared his five tips for people to get their adventure started:
1. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.
2. Do something simple and small, like going for a walk in your local woods or head up a hill.
3. Make sure you’re warm and prepared for bad weather with suitable waterproof clothing.
4. Take friends or family with you so you can share the experience and encourage each other.
5. Making the most of the outdoors shouldn’t be about pushing yourself and feeling miserable. Go at your own pace and have fun.

A nature spring guide for families – where to go locally and what to look out for

By | Education, environment, Family Farms, fun for children, Green, play, Playing, Relationships, Sprintime, Summer, Uncategorized
by Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham
Fine Feather Press

Grab your coat, your wellies if it is raining, your family and perhaps a picnic, for the dark days of winter have passed and the spring we have all been waiting for is here. These are a few suggestions, COVID restrictions allowing, for where families can go to enjoy some particularly wonderful spring sights across both Sussex and Surrey, but if there is one thing that our confined lives have taught us, it is that we don’t have to go far or even anywhere further than our doorstep to enjoy the natural world.

Spring flowers
Sussex and Surrey have an abundance of woodlands – here the flowers appear early in the year when the ground has warmed up and it is light. Once the leaves on the trees have come out, the woods become too shady for most flowers to grow. Plants that take full advantage of the brighter spring conditions include wood anemones, bluebells, primroses, common dog-violets and lesser celandines. Of all these, perhaps the bluebell puts on the most impressive display, for few wild flowers cover the ground so completely or smell as sweet. Chinthurst Hill near Wonersh, Brede Hill near Battle, Heaven Farm near Uckfield and Angmering Woods near Arundel, all put on annual bluebell spectaculars along with a medley of other spring flowers.

Orchids have a captivating appeal for many people and to discover one is thrilling. Ditchling Beacon and Malling Down are excellent places to search for them. Look out now for the early purple orchid – its clusters of flowers, long spotted leaves and unpleasant smell help to identify it – and come back in the summer for more orchid spotting.

The prospect of free food is always appealing, and a great family springtime activity is foraging. This is the season of ramsons, otherwise known as wild garlic. The young leaves make deliciously pungent soups, salads and pesto and the flowers, seed pods and bulbs are all edible too. The Downs Link path which runs for 37 miles from Guildford to Shoreham provides a great day out for families on bikes or on foot. Here wild garlic grows in abundance but for other sites, there is a fantastic website called www.fallingfruit.org
with an interactive map showing you sources of food growing on common land.

Trees and hedgerows
When winter shows no other sign of ending, along comes the blossom from trees such as blackthorn followed by wild cherry, crab apple, rowan and hawthorn. Every lane puts on its own frothy display for us to enjoy. Get to know where local elder bushes grow, for there is nothing so simple as making elderflower cordial. Another foraging find (maybe not for the children) are the youngest, freshest beech leaves which can be used in salads or soaked in gin. Beech trees are a feature of most of our deciduous woodlands but the ones at Staffhurst Woods near Oxted and Ashdown Forest are particularly fine.

Insects
Early in the year, insects emerging from hibernation are desperate for food. Queen bumblebees fly between early nectar sources such as cowslips, red dead-nettles and lesser celandines as do early butterflies such as brimstones and orange-tips feeding on cuckooflowers, honesty and garlic mustard. Surrey and Sussex are rich in places to see butterflies, but particularly good locations include Box Hill, Denbies Hillside, The Devil’s Dyke, Newtimber Hill, Rowland Wood and Pewley Down.

Birds
There is no better season for listening to bird song and often the adventures begin by simply opening a window! Every habitat has its own star performers with some having flown vast distances to be with us. If you want to hear some outstanding virtuosos then head to heathlands such as Chobham, Pirbright, and Iping and Stedham Commons. Here you may hear (if not see) buzzy Dartford warblers, melodious willow warblers or perhaps a chirring nightjar or two. Even more discrete than these birds are the nightingale – its drab, brown colouring making it almost impossible to spot in the dense undergrowth it inhabits. Its song, though, is unmistakable and the male sings both day and night until it finds a mate. Make your way to Ebenhoe Common, Pulborough Brooks and Puttenham Common for an unforgettable auditory experience. Make a note of International Dawn Chorus Day which is on Sunday 2nd May this year. Events are usually planned by a range of local wildlife groups.

Reptiles and amphibians
On sunny spring days, the coconut-sweet smell of gorse fills the air and reptiles such as lizards and adders like to bask in the sun. A stroll on Thursley Common’s boardwalks usually reveals some reptilian activity but if none materialise there is usually plenty of other wildlife to watch such as dragonflies and damselflies along with carnivorous plants and cuckoos.

For more information
The best way to find out more about these and other nature hotspots across the counties is to contact our wonderful wildlife charities. Most of these have local branches and are bursting with ideas for family activities and places to explore. Among these are Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT).

This is merely a quick canter through a handful of experiences on offer outside in Surrey and Sussex this spring. We apologise for all the obvious ones we’ve missed out. We’d love to hear about the ones you cherish and are willing to share on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FineFeatherPress) and on Twitter (@NatureActivity).

Andrea Pinnington and Caz Buckingham run natural-history publisher Fine Feather Press from their homes in Surrey and East Sussex.
Their latest title – The Little Book of Wild Flowers – is now out.