It is the end of a fun and challenging year. Enthusiasm for the project has waxed and waned and there were many days when I totally failed to give my kids an hour in the wild, due to illness, lack of time, energy, or inspiration. Sometimes, it was the miserable British weather that stopped play. Izzy going to school proved the biggest barrier, as she was often too tired afterwards to want to go out again. Luckily, her school is increasingly providing outdoor learning opportunities, such as forest school sessions, so she will benefit from that.
We kicked off our year with lots of different wild activities and ended by mostly sticking to the tried and tested things we loved, such as cycling at Seaton Wetlands, pony-riding and spending time at the allotment. Highlights include fossil-hunting, watching birds from a tram, Red Squirrels on Brownsea Island, a breakfast picnic in the woods and making leaf-print flags.
We have got to know our local patch well and we are lucky to live in a part of the world where we have easy access to clean, safe, nature reserves and public open spaces. as well as
wonderful events put on by the local countryside team, I once responded to a post on social media about doing art with a toddler and suggested creating Andy Goldsworty-style installations at the local park. The original poster replied, saying that the only park near them was off-limits due to anti-social behaviour and dog-mess. To be honest, I was shocked, but that lack of access to suitable open space is the sad reality for some people.
Amongst many other skills acquired over the past 12 months, my 2 year old has learnt to identify the call of a Wood Pigeon and my 5 year old can now make a daisy-chain without help. Their stamina has improved and their confidence climbing trees, splashing in the sea and bike-riding has increased. And yet, if I suggest going for a dog walk, or otherwise turn off the TV/computer to go outdoors, I am just as likely to hear groans now, as I was a year ago.
So, after all that, do I recommend that other people should be aiming to get their kids outside for an hour everyday? Well, no. Time in the wild is wonderful and proven to keep us healthy and happy, but despite the benefits, I am loathe to put parents under any more pressure to do the right thing for their children. The fact is, modern life is busy and most of us are seriously disconnected from the wild. Getting out into the natural world for an hour every day would require significant lifestyle changes for many people. I won’t be making a conscious effort to do it in the future for a couple of reasons, the main one being that although E is happiest out of doors, it has become clear that Izzy is not so comfortable. Despite the fact that she has been frequently exposed to nature from a young age (see my previous blog www.toddlerinthewild.co.uk) she would rather have her head in a book, or be building castles out of Lego than donning scarf and hat for a bracing winter walk on the beach. My parenting has always been child-led and I want her to be free to pursue her own interests when she is not at school. So, instead of carving out a special time every day, we will be appreciating the wild as we go about our everyday lives, whether that’s enjoying the dawn chorus as we wake, appreciating the weeds that grow beside the rail tracks as our train goes past, or rescuing snails crossing the pavement as we walk to school. And although I won’t be blogging about our future adventures in the wild, I am looking forward to many more – our first family camping trip, exploring the estuary by canoe and a visit to the Eden project for a start.