Since beginning my journey, gardening and exploring nature with kids, I have been spending more and more time outdoors exploring nature with my little boy. As I have mentioned before, I grew up in a very outdoorsy environment and until I had my own kids, I took that as the ‘norm’. Unfortunately, it has become rarer and rarer, and kids are spending more and more time indoors, in front of a TV screen, a laptop, a DS and so on. When reading an article by Sue Palmer, I was struck by the following quote, ‘I love being a 21st century boy,’ said one pasty-faced little interviewee. ‘I sit in my bedroom and watch TV or play computer games. And if I get hungry, I text down to my mum and she brings me up a pizza.’
God, I thought, that is not going to happen in MY house! But, as a parent, I have to make a concerted effort to get my kids to grow up outdoors and not stuck inside in front of the telly. The onus is on me, not my kids. I notice with my eldest boy, now four, he can be quite happy lolling about inside, watching telly and sometimes I have to make him put on his coat and hat and go out. He wants Mammy to come out with him or he ‘might get lonely’. (He has the old ‘Hourigan guilt trip’ off to a tee). I have to put on my coat and hat and go with him and usually after half an hour, he’s off doing his own thing, inventing imaginary games, making a mess with a puddle of water, creating hide-outs and finding the best ever swords, made from sticks. I am long forgotten but I wander in and out, making sure he hasn’t got into too much mischief. By next Spring, the small little man will be walking and able to join him.
Unstructured, free play is so important for your child’s development. They should spend lots more time outdoors, in all weathers, with the right gear on, to keep them dry and warm. Kids don’t necessarily need an amazing garden to play in, just an outdoor space where they can muck about. When you have time off at weekends or afterschool, there are lots of nice places to go for a walk or run around. We spent two hours cycling and walking in Glenstal Abbey, the other day, which was great for the kids and for me too!