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festivals for families

Overnight summer music festival survival guide for parents

By Uncategorized

Here are our top 10 tips for taking children to festivals. Read on and be inspired!

1. Involve children in the build up
Show them photos of the festival site being built. It helps them to appreciate the magnitude of the festival and the work that goes into it. Get them familiar with some of the music they’re likely to hear. You can share a countdown with your little ones and look forward to attending the festival together.

2. Pack those waterproofs
As a certain friend of ours said some years ago, wearing flip flops to a festival is definitely a terrible idea. Even with the promise of everlasting sunshine over the festival weekend, wellies and children’s lightweight waterproofs are an absolute necessity.

3. Prepare your children for sleeping in a tent
If you decide to sleep in a tent and your little ones have never slept under the stars before, you should help them prepare for what it’s going to be like. Consider setting up a tent in your garden – you can then play games in the tent, and maybe even have a sleepover so they won’t be too worried when you pitch up at the festival.

4. Book family-friendly accommodation
Find out where the family camping is and if you need to pre-book it. Lots of festivals offer family-friendly accommodation or quieter campsites for families so your children can take a nap when they need to.

5. Bring a small trailer
…or something that you can use to help transport all your stuff from the car to where you are camping. You can then pimp this up and make it a really comfy, cosy little den for the kids to rest or sleep in when they need to. It is also much easier for transporting your children when they have outgrown the buggy yet are still too little to want to trek for anything over 20 minutes.

6. Plan family-friendly activities
Find out what’s going on (and when) in the kids’ field and what it is that you don’t want to miss yourselves. Have a vague plan of action so you don’t miss the must-see stuff, but also be prepared to go with the flow. Family-friendly festivals are usually packed with lots of fun activities for children of all ages and their parents. We’re sure you won’t have time to get bored!

7. Bring healthy snacks
Take loads of bread sticks, oat cakes, yo-yo bears or whatever other popular snacks you have at home. Hungry children are angry children.

8. Safety first
On arrival make sure each child is wearing a wrist band with your name and phone number on it, just in case. And make sure your children know where the meeting place is if they get lost.

9. Bring sun cream
The forecast may not be balmy, but you know how fast British weather can change. Bring sun cream, which you can put on in the tent first thing and stay protected all day without having to worry.

10. Enjoy!
Find somewhere away from the main stages that’s playing fun music and have a family dance. Enjoy being with your loved ones and making memories.

For further information please see

Managing children’s mental health around the cost-of-living crisis

By Uncategorized
by Noel McDermott

With an estimated 23.4 million people unable to afford the cost of living, this is a time of deepening challenge and crisis. Not just for adults, but also for children and young people. Many families are facing rising costs and youngsters are experiencing increased anxiety and worry as a result, leading to an upsurge in children’s mental health worries.

Children will be affected by stresses and strains on their parents and other family members as much as by stressors directly on themselves. It’s important to recognise that as a parent you can only to a limited extent ‘protect’ your kids from your stresses as they will pick up on the negative cues. With something like the COL (Cost Of Living)crisis, they will not be able to avoid it due to it being featured so prominently and even if as a family you are managing economically, others in their schools may not, for example. Also, kids can pick up on and be affected significantly by issues in the news. Recent examples being of course Covid, the Ukraine war and now the COL crisis.

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Talk to your children about how they’re feeling about the cost-of-living crisis might impact them, reassure them it’s okay to ask for help if they feel low. Explain it’s normal and natural but that they don’t have to suffer alone. Monitor for signs they are struggling by watching out for mood, presentation or behaviour changes that last longer than a day or two. Increase family time and family events to be able to lift each other up and observe your kids at work and play.”

As with all these types of issues hoping you can shield your kids is ineffective as a strategy and you are best advised to deal with the issues openly, discussing as a family how it is affecting yourselves. Problems are always worse when imagined rather than faced and managed and as a family that is very true right now. Think about opening up the conversation by references to a news item for example, or if as a family you have shared meals, maybe begin a chat at that point. Ask for your kids to share their thoughts and feelings about themselves, their worries about the family and their friends. Listen without judgment and with lots of validation.

How to spot anxiety in children
Some children will be experiencing:
• More vivid dreams during this time.
• Interrupted sleep.
• Issues around appetite and so-on which are all classic signs of distress.
• Anger issues.
• Concentration problems.

It’s important to think about the wider health and psychological health impacts as we predict the COL crisis will ease through the year and into next year and it would be unfortunate to be left with a significant legacy of psychological ill health. The key issues to think about are stress management and adding health into your daily routine. Think body chemistry or hormones – some make us feel rubbish (stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol) and some make us feel good such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins (DOSE). It’s hard, if not impossible to overstate the positive health impacts of learning better management techniques around inappropriate stress hormone production. The other side of it is learning how to DOSE yourself up on reward hormones which positively improve your global health functioning.

How to DOSE yourself up on reward hormones
D – dopamine, gives you a feeling of wellbeing, happiness, and motivation. It can be activated in most pleasurable social situations, such as a good night’s sleep, eating a nice meal, going for a walk or other exercise, listening to music, hanging out with friends, getting sunshine, engaging with nature and even by stroking pets.

O – oxytocin, promotes strong emotional and relational bonds, gives you a feeling of being loved up – the core of our social animal nature, improves mood and is now looked at as a treatment for social phobia, autism, postpartum depression, anxiety, and depression. You get it from being physically close to those you love! Men and women produce it slightly differently as men can optimise production of the hormone in different behaviours with both sexes getting a boost from say holding hands and kissing, but men can get it from simulated competitive ‘battle’ with other men leading to a big release of loved up feeling when you survive.

S – serotonin, is a well-known term because of the common use of SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) or Prozac or fluoxetine as it is more generically known in the UK. Serotonin regulates mood and manages depression and anxiety. It improves happiness and wellbeing, and this has a global health improvement impact. Great ways to get some include sunshine and in general a good amount of bright light (you can use a ‘daylight’ or anti depression lamp), exercise that fatigues you (serotonin is produced in this type of fatigue to help you recover), eating healthy foods with good protein (plant based) and those less intensively farmed (wild food often has higher sources of the amino acids that help serotonin production).

E – endorphins, our natural pain killers! Nothing like naturally produced opiates to feel good! Endorphin is literally a combination of endogenous (from the body) and morphine, naturally occurring morphine has the impact of giving us an amazing sense of wellbeing. Again, a sense of wellbeing is evidenced to improve global health outcomes including improved physical health, social health, economic health, and relationship health. For pain relief also use stress relief as both states are the same in terms of health and wellbeing. Endorphins are a super stress buster. Here’s some of the stuff that produces endorphins: vigorous exercise is the most well-known, but also laughing, dark chocolate because of flavonoids and spicy foods which stimulate pain responses in the mouth. Yoga and meditation also produce endorphins – it all sounds like a lot of fun!

If we focus on the chemicals that make us feel good and reducing the chemicals that make us feel rubbish, we reduce long term illness and improve short term wellbeing. So, DOSE up your life as a family: Close on the heels of fun is healthy, is understanding how we can give ourselves positive hormonal boosts d-opamine (rewards prosocial activities improves motivation) o-xytocin makes you feel loved up after a cuddle, s-erotonin improves mood after getting some sun or having a walk in the park, endorphins make you feel great after strenuous activities such as a game of footie. Children love getting this sort of knowledge and maybe if they are younger, you can do a hormone treasure map for example, showing how and where in the home and the local area they can get their fix of each hormone.

Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. He has created unique, mental health services in the independent sector. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources to help clients access help without leaving home –

Where have the years gone?

By Uncategorized

by Kate Adams
Magic Moves

I’ve been teaching creative dance to children for a lifetime; the lifetime of my daughter! She was only a year old when I first started teaching dance to young children in Brighton and now 21 years later, I’m still doing it and yes, I still love it! I didn’t plan to be here at this point in my life, and I certainly didn’t imagine myself doing this when I was the age my daughter is now and fresh out of dance college. However, here I am still teaching dance, still dancing pretty much every day.

It was convenient at first. I could fit the work flexibly around childcare, and I soon realised it was a far better option for me than office work, which paid far less per hour; a big factor when returning to work part-time after having a child. Working for myself had its good and bad points – setting up the business and creating the class content was exciting and I had a lot of drive for it. However, I have always found marketing and self-promotion tedious and challenging. I soon discovered that the actual teaching was a small part of the work. Through trial and error I gained more experience as a teacher, I also acquired new management skills in running my own small business and created my own unique style and service. I diversified and ran ‘making and dancing workshops’ in the holidays and trained to teach Bollywood dance to adults. I learnt to be resilient, patient, persevering and tolerant – skills I was already employing as a mother.

It hasn’t been plain sailing and there have been many challenges along the way, such as an unpredictable income, illness, injuries, and most challenging of all – the Covid 19 pandemic. This hit at a point when I was doing better than ever, with many young dancers signed up to a course of classes that I was now worried I couldn’t fulfil. Straight away I set myself up on Zoom – something I had no experience of whatsoever! I moved furniture in my living room and created a dance studio, I made a lot of noise trying to get the music output right, found ways to place my laptop on top of a chair which was on top of a table, to get the height to see the whole space I was dancing in. I muddled my way through. I probably disturbed the neighbours and certainly annoyed my family but I was lucky as they also found it quite amusing. I created some ‘making packs’ and delivered them to each of the children so they could make props to dance with. Once restrictions allowed, I ran classes outside – I did everything I could to keep myself and my students dancing. Somehow, two years later, when I expected to have given up, I am still going, still teaching, still dancing.

I often ask myself why and how can I still be doing this? I mean it certainly isn’t for the money! In the end it always comes back to an internal need to keep active and keep dancing – above all because I enjoy dancing so much, I want others to feel that too. I know it helps me keep a positive and happy mind and working with children, although sometimes unpredictable, can be a real delight – my favourite morning is a Monday when I arrive to teach at a local nursery and the children are so excited to dance.

As a family, this summer we have spent time celebrating the achievements of both our now adult children, with my daughter graduating from university and my son completing his A Levels. Motherhood has shifted to the next stage where I now find myself in a new place where my children desire less attention whilst my ageing parents are becoming more and more needy. So now, I particularly love being around young children through my work because of their innocence, energy and enthusiasm.

I am probably about 15-20 years older than most of the parents reading this and I hope to keep teaching dance for a while longer. If you are thinking of combining parenthood with self-employed work doing something that you have a passion for – I say, go for it! It may not be the most secure, and it might feel like stepping off into the deep end, so I would advise starting small and part-time. But if you can make it work and still enjoy what you do then it will be worth it because it will bring you happiness, in the same way as bringing up a child and watching them grow into a wonderful young adult does.

Kate Adams is a dance teacher and director of Magic Moves, Creative Dance for Children   Telephone 01273 600 126


Mum and baby cuddle

Why parenting with anxiety makes you a ‘super-parent’

By children's health, family, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Abby Dunn
Psychologist at the University of Sussex

The last couple of years have been tough for everyone. The Covid pandemic has left many adults and children feeling uncertain, stressed and anxious at times. Several pieces of research have highlighted the heavy burden this period has put on parents of young children. If you are a parent or carer you may have found things overwhelming at times. You are not alone in those feelings. Almost every mum and dad across the country will have done so at some point.

At the Parenting with Anxiety Team we specialise in supporting families. We hope that the following will provide some useful information and reassurance. But also remember that you are the expert on your family.

Parents with anxiety are ‘super-parents’
From our work with parents we know that almost all of them go to massive efforts to do what is best for their children and that they are doing this while managing their own anxiety. Think of Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards in high heels. It is not easy!

We know that all parents can think they are not doing a good enough job, so it was great to hear a mother we work with describe anxious parents as ‘super-parents’. And they are! Super at managing their anxiety at the same time as juggling the demands of parenthood. If you are in this situation, take a moment to recognise that you are super too.

You are just one part of what makes your child who they are
If you find yourself experiencing anxiety, you may worry about the impact it has on your children. You may notice that they express some anxious feelings of their own. If that is the case remember that a huge number of different factors contribute to making your child the amazing individual he or she is. It is not all down to you. It is also worth remembering that when your child is anxious your understanding of your own anxiety can give you special insight into what they are going through.

Your child’s anxieties are not your own
When you feel anxious, your child’s worries can be overwhelming. It can be useful to remember that all children worry at times and it is perfectly normal. Sometimes you might be tempted to step in and fix things for them, so they don’t have the same experiences you did.

School experiences can be a point when we transplant the feelings we have about our experiences onto our children. But their experiences are different and the things which worry us may not affect them in the same way. Similarly, when your child is worried about something you do not have to share those feelings. If you can step back a little from their worries you will be better able to help them cope with them. This is not always easy and don’t beat yourself up if you do find yourself sharing their fears.

If you are worried, encourage your child to talk, and listen
Just by noticing that something is going on for your child you have already shown real sensitivity. The next thing to do is support them to share what they are feeling. You do not necessarily have to solve things – you might not be able to and that is OK. If worries are coming up at bedtime focus on soothing them and try and have a gentle conversation about it at another time. Sometimes it can help to have a chat while you are both more relaxed, for example in the car, while playing or walking back from the shops.

To find out more about the project at the University of Sussex please visit

Five tips for preparing your first born for their new sibling

By family, Health, prenancy, Relationships, Uncategorized

When you’re getting ready to welcome another baby into your family, you’ll no doubt want to share the excitement with your first born. By getting them involved with all the pre-baby organising, you can ensure your son or daughter is just as prepared as you are for the new arrival. Here, Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director at Write From The Heart shares her tips for getting your little one ready for a sibling.

With another baby on the way, there’s sure to be many things you’ll be planning, and one of those should be helping to make it a positive experience for your first born, too. It’s only natural that your little one might feel a bit left out or upset knowing they won’t be mummy or daddy’s only child, but this doesn’t mean they can’t warm to the idea – especially if you get them involved with the exciting preparations.

Here, I’ll be sharing my top tips for getting your first born prepared for their new sibling.

Make a special announcement to them
Telling your little one that you’re expecting another baby can seem nerve-wracking, but if you approach it in the right way, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Creating a special announcement that gets them involved is a great way of doing this. For example, you could throw a mini tea party with plenty of their favourite foods, games, and decorations and reveal it to them during this and tell them they’re soon going to have a little brother or sister who they can do this with.

You could even give them a little gift that they’ll be able to share with their new sibling. This could be a game they could play together when they’re a little older, or a book they could read to the new arrival.

Allow them to help pick decorations for the nursery
If you’re planning on giving your nursery an overhaul before your little one arrives, it might be a nice idea to have your son or daughter help you with it. If your child is too young to help to do any painting, you could get them involved in different ways. For example, once you’ve narrowed down a few options of paints or wallpapers for the walls, you might want to ask them which they like better and go with that one.

If your child loves drawing or painting, you could even have them create something special for the newborn that you can frame and hang in the nursery.

As you will be spending quite a lot of time in the nursery, whether that’s redecorating or organising your baby’s drawers, it’s important that you try to get your little one involved as much as possible. Allowing them to help you make big decisions and being given their own responsibilities is sure to make them feel happier and more prepared to be a big brother or sister.

Get them involved with the naming process
Thinking of a name for your baby doesn’t always come easy, especially when you haven’t met them yet. This is why some parents like to come up with a few good options so that they can see which suits their newborn better once they meet.

If you’re struggling for some first or middle names, or you simply can’t pick between a couple, why not let your little one help? They’re bound to come up with some that you’re not too keen on, but by spending some time together looking through baby name books and writing down your favourites together, your son or daughter is sure to feel special – plus, you’ll have plenty of options when it’s time to meet your new baby!

Read them stories about other siblings
There are sure to still be periods of uncertainty for your child about having a new sibling, even if they appear excited at times. To help ease any worries and show them how fun it can be to have a brother or sister to share family life with, I would recommend reading them stories about siblings.

Whether the storyline is about fun adventures that siblings can go on together or gives your little one ideas about what types of games they could play together when the baby is a bit older, it’s sure to make them a bit more enthusiastic and excited.

To make it a bit more personal, you could even look for books that can have the character names personalised to match your son or daughter’s name, so they feel extra special and relate with the character more.

Let them choose a gift for the baby’s arrival
Letting your child select a gift from them for the baby’s arrival can be a great initial bonding experience, especially when they choose something that your newborn can cherish for years, like a cuddly toy or a blanket.

So next time you head out to the shops for some baby supplies, why not take your son or daughter with you? Head to the newborn baby section with them so you can be sure anything they choose will be suitable for a tiny human.

If you’ve already decided on a name, you could even let them choose a personalised gift, like a soft toy with your baby’s name embroidered on, or a memory box that they can help to fill when your newborn has arrived.

Ease your child’s nerves or jealousy about a new sibling by getting them involved as much as possible with the preparations. By giving them responsibilities and getting their opinions, they’re sure to feel much more valued and excited to meet their new brother or sister!

Nine ways to make moving house easier on your kids

By Uncategorized

Moving to a new house is always a challenge, let alone when you have kids to keep entertained as well. However, there are plenty of ways to make it manageable (and possibly even fun) and the team at have compiled their top tips to help get you and your kids through the big move.

Let them know that moving house is a new adventure, not something they have to do

Quite simply, kids hate being told what to do. As soon as you tell your child that they must do something, they will drag their feet and not want to. However, if you position it to them as an exciting new adventure, rather than something they don’t have a choice in, they’re going to be far more willing to go along with it. Tell them all the exciting things the new house has that your current home doesn’t, that way they’ll be even more excited to get going.

Let them come to showings with you

I know, letting your kids come on a house viewing with you sounds like a whole new level of stress. However, by making them feel involved, they’ll then be just as excited as you are and will be able to see with their own eyes what is to come. A great tip for this is to give them a designated job such as ‘official house viewing photographer’ or letting them make a Pinterest board to design their new room. This isn’t to say that you should drag them along if they’re not interested, but if they are, it could be the perfect opportunity to get them on side.

Spend time in the local neighbourhood

Spending time in the surrounding area and letting your kids explore the parks, playgrounds, shops and restaurants, is another great way of getting them excited to move. If they find a cool new park that they love, they’re going to be much happier about moving to a new area that has something the current area doesn’t.

Make packing creative

Letting them paint and draw on the boxes is going to make packing feel much less of a chore for them as well as making the whole process much more enjoyable. Maybe turn it into a competition for the little ones to see who has done the best drawing. Every kid loves to compete with their sibling.

Unpack toys and their favourite belongings first

It might be a challenge when you first step through the door of your new home to not crack right on with unpacking boxes and getting settled in, but the kids will want to be entertained from the get-go. Unpack their boxes first and make sure they’re entertained with something, that way you can get on with unpacking the rest of the house!

Assign them tasks

Assigning them tasks will make them feel much more involved in the move as well as making them feel just as important as the grown-ups. Whether it’s creating a playlist and being DJ for the moving day, making sure all their toys are in boxes, or entertaining the family pet for the day, it will keep them occupied and even help you out in the process.

Let them camp out in their new bedroom

Allowing them to set up a fort and camp out in their new bedroom will be a great novelty for them. Every kid loves a blanket fort, so crack out the duvets and cushions and give them free reign of their room for the night.

Don’t let all the familiar routines slip

If sitting down for a meal together is a daily routine, don’t let it slip just because you’re busy unpacking. Kids not only need the consistency, but they will also appreciate it and feel much more at home seeing that things are still the same within the family. Even if you’re having to use moving boxes as a table, it will be an exciting dinner time for them to say the least.

Keep snacks at hand all day

The last thing you want when you’re trying to empty one house and fill another is your kids moaning that they’re hungry and as a result, turning ‘hangry’. Keeping snacks at hand means you won’t have to rush out and find the nearest supermarket whilst you’re trying to focus on unpacking as quickly as possible.

How your relationship shapes your child’s future relationships

By Uncategorized
by Neil Wilkie
Relationship Expert

You have the power to create great relationships for your future generations or not!

Possibly the most important skill in life is how to have a loving and fulfilling relationship with another person. Who teaches us how to do this? From a very early age children model their parent’s behaviour as this helps them to make sense of this new world that they have been born into. Until they are old enough to develop their own map of the world, they will aspire to having the same sort of relationship that their parents have.

How parents relate to their children, in the first three years, will shape the attachment style of their children for what is likely to be the rest of their lives. The four attachment styles are; Secure, Anxious, Avoidant or Fearful. The state of the relationship of the parents in these formative early years may impact on their ability to make their children feel secure.

Children often believe that their relationships will have to be like their parents. So, if it is loving and harmonious, they are very fortunate and will carry that into their futures. If it is unhappy and argumentative, they will carry that shadow with them because ‘that is how relationships are’ unless they can find a better model they can apply in their lives.

Couples may believe that they can keep their disagreements hidden and their frustrations swept under the carpet. Children will pick up, at least subconsciously, if the relationship of their parents does not feel right. Children need to see that differences are part of life and that they can be dealt with amicably. They also need to experience that life can be a bumpy ride and that their parents can handle this as a team.

Children should see their parents experiencing joy and fun with each other. If they can see the love glowing and growing, the looks, gentle kisses, kind words and touches; the moments of intimacy where it is as if the world stops and nothing else matters, then they will be well set up for their future relationships. If they can see respect, consideration and sharing of burdens, this will give them an insight into balanced gender roles. If the future dreams and purpose of their parents is talked about openly then they will feel part of that journey and realise that they too, can shape their own future rather than be passengers.

Parents should retain privacy on sensitive issues and should show their children that relationships require openness and nurturing. They can also demonstrate that mistakes are inevitable, and they are a great opportunity to learn and improve.

Children need to be taught, by example, what a great relationship is like. They also need to understand that life changes and that falling in love is easy but staying in love requires hard work.

The six key elements of a relationship are:
Communication – being able to express your feelings to each other and feeling listened to and understood.
Connection – having time each day where you are there for each other and fully present.
Commitment – both being clear about what you want from life and from the relationship and working to achieve this.
Fun – spending time doing things together, sharing laughs and good times.
Growth – the you, me and ‘us’ all growing and being fulfilled.
Trust – doing what we say we are going to do, being there for each other and being open and honest.

Couples should regularly be talking about their relationship, calibrating it and agreeing where improvements are needed. If parents can show their children that they are doing this in the same way that tests at school chart their own progress, this will demonstrate a great model for their future relationships.

What we say to our children and how we behave with them should help them grow into happy and secure adults and parents. So many children are badly affected for the rest of their lives by things that parents say to them or that are overheard. They may be said in moments of anger or misunderstanding but the emotionally developing brain of a child may attach too much importance to what they hear and carry that shadow with them for the rest of their lives.

These are the 10 important feelings that children need their parents to stimulate:
Loved – unconditionally, no matter what.
Secure – that we are there for them, to protect them when needed.
Supported – to be the best version of themselves.
Boundaries – to know what acceptable behaviour is and what is not.
Growth – to continually develop to be even better.
Trust – to be able to predict what we will do and feel safe.
Communication – to be listened to and able to express their feelings.
Connection – to feel an important part of a family.
Commitment – parents are there for them.
Fun – to be able to have fun together.

If we can give our children all of these, this will build a firm foundation to experience the joys of a great relationship and weather the storms of life and relationships.

What legacy do you want to give your children?

Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm Series of Books and creator of the online therapy platform, The Relationship Paradigm®.
Find out more at

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.


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!



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
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.

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.

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 ( 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.