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Play / 18 Dec 2015 / by James

Back to basics: Classic outings for the wild at heart

Back to basics: Classic outings for the wild at heart

As a kid, playtime for me and my siblings was almost exclusively dedicated to the great outdoors – running around our humble backyard, riding our bikes down the street or, weather permitting, enjoying a family barbeque at a local park. Being part of such a large family brings with it a unique opportunity to compare childhood memories– an activity I often indulge in. With my younger siblings constantly playing on the latest gaming consoles and the age of mobile phone ownership getting younger and younger (I specifically remember not obtaining one until at least the age of 15) it seems our upbringings are a sign of the times.

As a kid, all I remember us doing in any spare time possible was riding our bikes until we physically could not go on and spending hours upon hours jumping on our trampoline until we were eventually locked outside as a ploy to reclaim us for dinner – generally we refused and decided it would in fact be completely acceptable to spend the night in the garden. We did all the great outdoor-sy stuff – tree climbing, mud pie making, snail collecting, crunchy-autumn-leaf-stomping – everything and anything we could get our hands on became a fabulous new game. We once found a large piece of bark from a tree that was suspiciously cricket bat shaped and used this for months as our very own backyard cricket bat until being gifted a very real one the following Christmas. We simply spent hours outdoors, and it’s all we ever wanted to do.

My younger siblings, it seems, don’t (or didn’t) have the same love for everything nature-based. Don’t get me wrong, a trip to the park or a family BBQ is always met with enthusiasm but these days, parents are trying to get their children outside more and more rather than bribing them back in from the cold nights. We all know we should probably spend a little more time outside, if not for the pure joy of fresh, clean air and sunshine, for our physical health. But things have changed dramatically, and with the steady advancement of computer games and portable consoles, not to mention an apparent fear amongst modern day parents to let their kids ‘wander free’, they just aren’t spending enough time outside.

With the nation’s kids spending more than half their spare time in front of computers or televisions, there really is a growing need for more time spent out in the fresh air. It’s an easy way to encourage physical activity, and kids will barely notice the amount of exercise they do when they’re enjoying themselves so much (exactly how it’s supposed to be!) – They’ll even sleep better.

With the freedom to do as they wish, kids learn to make their own judgements whilst interacting freely with their surroundings. Not only does the great outdoors encourage more imaginative and creative play, but also acts as a fabulous learning aid and is said to increase children’s concentration and attention levels. Teachers often comment on the positive changes they observe in the behaviour of children once learning is taken out of the classroom and into the great outdoors.

Ultimately, getting your kids out a little more is a great way to spend more time together and create a childhood full of fun activities they will always remember, not to mention inspire a love of all things nature based.  

Some classic activities that will get your whole family back to nature –

Take those rusty bikes for a ride – We all love a good bike ride, especially when the whole family can join in. With packed lunch in tow, all you have to do is ride for as long as it takes to find that perfect picnic spot...or family pub!

Go for an afternoon ramble – There’s nothing like an invigorating walk in the countryside, and trust us, most of these lovely walks are right on your doorstep! As long as you’ve got a good pair of walking shoes, there’s no telling what you might spot in the great English countryside. The National Trust has a fantastic list of the UK’s top ten family walks – take a look if you’d like to plan a mini break.

National Trust

Gather leaves and make a scrapbook – A great way to teach kids about different trees (even if you aren’t so sure yourself!). Collecting the ‘perfect’ leaf and comparing shapes, colours and textures is a fantastic hands-on learning aid – plus, its lots of fun! Take hoarded leaves home and stick in a scrapbook, frame as a picture or trace and colour in for a great post-outing activity.

Let’s go fly a kite – When was the last time you flew a kite? When you were a kid yourself, most likely - but what great memories! Bring back this fabulous family past time in style – with a kite that your kids can create themselves before they take it for a spin.

Bug collecting – Whilst it might not grab your fancy, kids love playing with creepy crawlies. There’s just something about all things slimy and six-legged they find absolutely fascinating. There are lots of bug inspired containers available, but all they really need is a plastic pot and magnifying glass to bring the classroom outside – but don’t forget to let them free!