As well as working on my Forest School assignments, (I’m training with Kindling to become a Level 3 Forest School Leader) we’ve been making the effort as a family to get out and about in lots of local woodlands two or three times a week to explore new areas and to practice things like putting up tarp shelters and making hot chocolate using the Kelly Kettle.
Of course this is fun, its brilliant, the kids love the excitement of exploring a new area and finding some flat ground to build a shelter. I love it when my 4 year old recognises an Ash tree by its black leaf buds, or my daughters stop to stroke springy green moss covered tree trunks and make up stories about the fairies.
But in all honesty, the hours (yes it often takes over an hour for us to leave the house) before we get there can be stressful and anything but the loveliness we know awaits us in nature. As all parents know, by far the hardest part of the day is often leaving the house. For reasons beyond understanding, the task of getting ready, getting one, two, three or more children and babies ready, preparing the outdoor gear and snacks and actually getting out of the house can reduce us mums to tears. And then there are those days when we think it is all going well, the kids are in the car, and then we loose our keys, or the baby is sick of needs changing. In the mean time bickering and arguing break out, we trip up, and wonder why we are even attempting this. Waiting in the car the other day, my little one pulled the rear view mirror straight off the windscreen (for the second time) adding more stress and time to actually setting off as I wondered if playdough might squish inside and stick it back on (If you’re wondering, no it doesn’t).
But we know it is worth it, once we get out the energy changes and once we are in nature, it is not only us and the house which needs to hold the space and energy for our kids, it is nature ~ and the trees, puddles, stones, sticks, moss and lakes are certainly capable of holding, enticing, inspiring and captivating our children, and bringing a sense of calm, peace and renewal to ourselves.
So here are some of the ways I’ve been making getting out of the house a little easier:
- Put 3 plastic boxes in the boot of the car, one for boots/wellies, one for waterproofs and one for spare clothes. Have one set for each child and yourself, and place them back in here after walks, drying out waterproofs and replenishing spare clothes as needed. It makes a huge difference to carrying armfuls of coats and boots in and out of the house, and clears the porchway a bit too.
- Put a pair of gloves in each coat pocket and encourage kids to put them back in there. Cold hands go into pockets and find cosy gloves!
- If having a picnic lunch, instead of making the picnic at home, pack an adventure picnic where you put all the bits in the bag and make it when you get there… kids love this added excitement of what they will choose for the adventure picnic.
- Re-visit the same area a few times ~ kids love to know where they are going and what they will do when they get there, you can talk about getting our shoes on ready to explore the big fallen tree at the start of the woods, or racing to the rope swings by the lake; they already have a picture in their heads of where they are going and it can help immensely with motivating reluctant little legs to leave the house.
- Hungry kids never make for smooth transitions or fun activities, and who can blame them. I find having a snack ready to eat when we are all clipped in to car seats helps again with their leaving the house motivation.
- Create a bag or rucksack for yourself which you use only for out and about adventures, pack it with the things you know you’ll need; first aid kit, tissues, tarpaulin to sit on and build shelters with, flask and cups. This lessens the rush in the morning as all you need to do is add fresh snacks, drinks and picnic.
- We’ve found a little back pack for each child is something which is working well; they can have their own hat (sun or warm depending on season) their own snack, notebook and pens, camera if they like to bring one and little toy, as well as extra layer and spare socks. It adds immensely to their sense of comfort and wellbeing to know they have their own snack and it (may) stop your own pockets overflowing with all of their nature finds.
Getting out of the house is often, by far, the most difficult part of a day out in nature, but once we are out and about we know it’s worth it; minds and bodies find a new focus, there is space to breathe, run and climb, and we know the benefits will carry over into the rest of the day.