Woodland walking. (Kingston Lacy)
The last of the bluebells. (Really we should have gone out in the rain to see them)
Logs for climbing.
Sunshine. (Finally! We're having rather a wet springtime!)
Easter at Highclere Castle, the stunning location for the period television drama Downton Abbey!
Easter egg hunts and Easter bonnet parades, so much Easter goodness!
When I'm out in nature with the children I like to look for natural play opportunities in our surroundings. How might the children be playful in the natural space they find themselves, even if it's only for an hour? I try to think how a child might like to play.
Visiting Wales a few days ago, we came upon a pure, clean bubbling stream which was an obvious water play opportunity. Its silty bank offered up sand play. Mix the two together and there was mud play! I like to keep a simple nature play kit close at hand to help the children really enjoy being outdoors and associate nature with an opportunity ripe for natural play. In our basic nature play kit we have:
Short handled fishing net
Easy for a child to hold.
Perfect for folding up into a pocket. They're great to use on nature walks to collect just about anything. For a younger child they're good for 'filling' and 'dumping' play outdoors. We like Scrunch Buckets.
Great for digging sand, soil, stones or mud.
Wide necked jam jar
Useful for filling up from the stream or sea and then looking to see what might be in the water. Or filling with water and making a simple posy of flowers with daisies or dandelions.
Little plastic boat
Tied with a long piece of string so it doesn't float off downstream.
Fold up kite
For those days when you find yourselves on the beach or on top of a hill and the wind is blowing.
Small watering can
Children love to fill and empty watering cans!
Complete change of clothing
With a change of clothes for each child there's no need to restrict how muddy or wet they get when they're playing.
To clean muddy, sandy hands.
To dry off with. Or sit on.
Plastic shoes or welly boots
To keep feet safe when wading in water.
I love to see Miss K and Little L being playful in nature!
The children found a stream trickling from the cliff, meandering down the sand to the sea. The stream had braided, cutting away a large section of sand. They loved to jump over the water onto their own sand island and pick up handfuls of sand to build castles with their hands.
Really, sometimes the simplest play is the best play of all.
The UK seems sun- drenched this week, it's been exceptionally mild. Little L is wearing pretty summer dresses and wanting to go bare-legged to keep cool. We're spending our time outside, at the park, in the garden, walking to and from school with Miss K. The walk home is taking twice as long now as there are so many things to see, tiny ladybirds on leaves, magnolia trees bursting into blossom. The children enjoy collecting the creamy, blushed petals as they drop to the floor.
We've just got back from the farm, the children collected eggs, fed baby goats, watched baby lambs, held baby chicks, milked pretend cows...so many smiles all around! We've been basking in sunshine all day.
Moments ago, Little L said as she climbed into bed, "I'll dream about slides and trampolines!" There's something so poignant about the night before a birthday, I feel like I want to catch a tiny bit of their childhood before it slips away.
When she climbs out of bed in the morning she'll be four years old! Oh my.
The play space suddenly expands in the spring time with the chance to play outdoors. We're lucky to have an enclosed back garden, at almost four and six years old, Little L and Miss K can come and go as they please and are old enough now to have unsupervised outdoor play.
Independent play is such a beautiful opportunity to create your child's inner-dialogue, moving and encouraging their independent play outdoors can open up brand new sensory experiences for a child. Being able to breathe in fresh air, feeling damp grass, brushing the different textures of leaves with their finger tips, experiencing the feeling of wide, open spaces.
In our home, now springtime is here, there is always a little pile of boots and coats next to the back door. This makes the transition between indoor and outdoor play so much simplier. For Little L it encourages her to practise her own everyday skills like finding the right boot for the right foot and pulling on her own coat, all perfect for building self-esteem. I can't wait for the warmer weather, it will be so nice to leave the back door wide open to create a real free-flow feeling between indoors and out.
I try and not comment on or complain about muddy clothes. They can always be washed. If they're happiest tramping around the garden in princess clothes or pretty party dresses, I don't ask them to change into something else, as it can interrupt the flow of their natural play, their dreaming. I simply leave them to it.
Simple things like little stainless steel containers, small buckets, trowels and water in a small spray bottle keep them happy outdoors. You can check out their mud kitchen here. Miss K and Little L like to fill the buckets with twigs, grass, soil, stones and flowers they come across in their play.
Splashes of bright yellow daffodils.
Breathing in the spring time air.
Hearing the distant hum of a lawnmower pulling us forward into summer days.
Little L misses the bees, she wonders where they've been all winter, why she hasn't seen them?
Miss K listens out for the birds singing as she steps outside each day.
They can see the changes in nature, the lighter evenings, the buds unfurling on branches, daisies springing up in the grass. When they were younger I would carefully point out the changes in the seasons, now there is no need, they can see it, feel it. Now they show me.