It was a gift of a day yesterday with puffs of cloud scudding across a blue sky, and golden spring sunshine. My kids are on their Easter break, a time when many parents feel the pressure to provide entertainment and expensive days out; the first second that you set foot inside a kid-oriented venue, there will be someone at hand to lighten your pockets. Why do you have to exit the zoo through the shop, why do you need an LED sword in order to enjoy a pantomime, why do our kids need to be tempted by overpriced and unhealthy snacks EVERYWHERE we go? Sometimes the more effort and expense involved in a day out, the more stress, less enjoyment and greater risk out burn-out, and/or disappointment. If you are fed up of spending holidays queuing with swarms of other stressed parents and hoards of spoilt kids, returning home in the car to half an hour of tired bickering and pockets full of sticky wrappers and plastic junk, simply opt out! Arm yourself against pester-power and let the spring time be your theme-park!
Yesterday I spent a perfect sunny afternoon with a friend and our four children out in the woods and fields. We took a bag with some water, bread and raisins, some binoculars, a camera, blanket and a wild flower guide. The kids mucked about in the stream, poked sticks under rocks, explored the woods, ran in the fields and had a great time. My friend and I even had the time to laze on a primrose bank, soak up some sun and watch them bumbling around at a distance, enjoying some of the independence and freedom that city kids rarely experience. The afternoon was fantastic, everyone has lots of fun, it cost only the petrol to get there, and there was no whining and pestering about wanting this or that; pure simple enjoyment. All the kids are desperate to get back and re-explore their favorite places.
A simple day out is a healthy-option for the holidays. All you need is a little preparation; wellies, spare clothes in the car in the event of over-enthusiastic puddle stamping, a bag of fruit and water and a few good ideas to keep all ages happy;
- Take wild flower or animal guides, a flower press, or camera.
- Build a bivouac or shelter with bigger kids.
- Find a bridge or stream for pooh sticks, or build little boats or rafts from found materials to race with bigger kids.
- Hold a roly-poly competition (ensure that you know what dock leaves look like).
- Find a climbing tree, or logs to balance on (endless entertainment).
Keep it simple and energetic, and look for areas with plenty of places to explore and poke around in. Every time we do this I am freshly surprised by how much fun can be squeezed out of a simple walk, and fresh air and open space will let the kids blow away the cobwebs and fully exercise their bodies.
For ideas on urban and other places to visit www.bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces
For wildlife info and games for kids www.naturedetectives.org.uk/springwatch/index.htm
For the Ramblers association Festival of spring walks http://www.ramblers.org.uk/news/archive/2002/festivalofspringwalks.html (For walks in the US and Canada try http://walking.about.com/od/trails/Walking_Trails_and_Destinations.htm or http://www.trails.com/activities.asp?area=14949 )
Once again, the urbanites will not miss-out, as there is a collection of walks through towns and cities: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/info/urbanwalks.html (For walks in the US and Canada try http://walking.about.com/od/trails/Walking_Trails_and_Destinations.htm or http://www.trails.com/activities.asp?area=14949 )
For mountain bike paths and trails www.moredirt.co.uk
Also check out your local council website which can be a wealth of info on free events in local parks and museums to keep kids entertained.
For country side walks without using a car to get there check your local council website http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Environment-Planning/Countryside/countryside-walks—exploring-the-countryside-without-a-car.en
We have been led to believe that children can only be kept happy and educated if they are provided with an interactive button to press, a zillion opportunities to purchase souvenirs (which they will immediately leave under the bed and forget), and crammed full of kid junk food. There is a reason that we are fed this line, and it is that other people are making huge amounts of money out of our desire to keep our kids happy. But these things don’t always provide golden memories, happy smiling relaxed children and contented parents, in fact usually the opposite. Toddlers to teens will benefit from some time spent outside surrounded by nature and away from the endless noise and expense of the commercial world. So chuck some snacks and a blanket in a bag, and get out into the open with your family and friends to enjoy simple holiday pleasures.
Until next time,