outdoors

Learning in the woods

We had a wonderful day of learning at our local nature school today. Woods are wonderful places to visit with children. This wood is a native woodland, being managed by traditional means such as coppicing. Bernard and Zane run many courses here including forest schools, wild foraging, school visits and woodland management courses.  Today’s “Wonder of the Woods” day was a family day.


We were there to help talk about the wonderful diverse wildlife from birds, insects to woodland flora.

The kids enjoyed running about, climbing,  building shelters, making charcoal pencils, and leaf rubbings.

Charcoal pencil

Charcoal pencil

Afterwards we enjoyed sausages cooked on an open fire, and for dessert toasted marshmallows! A perfect end to a great day. And a big thank you to Bernard and Zane and all their family.

 

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Summer time – Beach fun!

Going to the beach in the summer is one of our favourite family activities. This year we have really got into our sandcastle building. It’s a great way to get creative! Use whatever is lying around – sand, stones, feathers, seashells, even seaweed.

Think of the sand as a giant canvas ready for drawing pictures and making patterns. If there is no sand use rocks, shells and stones.

 

There is lots to see.  Rock pools can be great places to explore. Look out for little fish, shellfish, hermit crabs and anemones. If you find a crab look out for those sharp pincers because even though they are small they are not afraid to use them. Jellyfish sometimes get washed up, but be careful some can sting.

HAVE FUN!!

School’s Garden Club

As part of our work at our local school on the biodiversity green flag we have set up an “After-Schools Garden Club”.

I was delighted when we got a huge response from the children and over forty children have signed up for the club, which meets two Fridays of each month. We also had great support from parents with many offering to help and others offering supplies of compost, gloves and garden tools.

Our first week was very busy. We divided into class groups of up to eight kids and divided the tasks between classes. We weeded the existing flower beds, put up the bird boxes the children had made already, planted some bulbs, and some fruit trees.

 

Each child also got the opportunity to plant some seeds and bring them home. Some of these will be brought back to school to plant in the raised beds and into pots. We will keep you posted on our progress.

 

Happy pots

Happy pots

 

A huge thank you to all the kids and parents for being so enthusiastic and our sponsors of seeds, plants and compost (including Woodies in Castlebar, Homeland in Ballina and Shaws Garden Centre, Castlebar, Co Mayo)

Get outside! Get Muddy! Have Fun!

I was lucky as a child I got to spend as much time out of doors as I wanted. I could roam through fields, play down at the stream. There was noting to stop me and only the wonder of nature to guide me. In recent months, there has been an increasing amount of research published that is showing worrying trends on the amount of time children are spending out of doors. In a recent Guardian newspaper article, it was reported that children are spending less time outside than prisoners:

“The new survey questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 parents of 5-12 year olds and found 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day. UN guidelines for prisoners require ‘at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily‘”.

What is more the research has shown 18% of children spent no time outdoors on an average day!

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So in 2016, what stops children getting outside? An article in the British newspaper The Express reports on the reasons parents give for not allowing their children outdoors, including the weather, lack of time and the fact that the children just wanted to stay inside. From my perspective as a parent I know that each of these are valid points. It rains a lot in Ireland, but we have have waterproof coats and trousers and have been known to go for walks in the rain.Often my children won’t go out unless there is an adult that will go out with them, so I need to make time. But the thing is once the children are out there they just need to know I am near, they don’t need me to play with them, I can be getting on with some gardening while they are taking their imaginary dogs for a walk (that was what they were doing today!). And yes, children like nothing better than sitting on the sofa having screen time, but what is that doing for them? So we try and just have half an hour screen time a day. It doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does.

According to the Huffington Post, who were reporting on a study commissioned by UK’s Eco Attractions Group, there are children who have never had a picnic in their back garden, never built a sandcastle or jumped in a muddy puddle. I would say that these are activities that should not only be enjoyed by every child but also by every adult. So as a parent or guardian of a child, why not get out there with your kids. Have a picnic, go for a walk, buy some Wellington boots and a raincoat and have some fun in the rain.

Research shows that outdoor play is essential for childrens’ development and it makes them happier and calmer. Being outside helps children learn to explore, it allows them to use their imagination without the aid of modern electronic gadgets. As parents it is time we allowed our children to get muddy, let them make mud piles, let them get their hands dirty, let them feel the soil and grass on their hands, and even let them climb a tree – all this connects them with nature. Who cares if they get dirty – that is why we have baths and washing machines!

 

Further reading:

The Wild Network – This is a network of  people and organisations with a collective vision to re-wild childhood, increase time outside and help children thrive in the 21st century.

Last Child in the Wood a book by Richard Louv

Dirt is Good a campaign by Persil to get more kids outdoors