Playing in the Rain

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Well the weather is officially on the turn. It’s getting colder, especially first thing in the morning, and we’ve had a few rainy days.

But this isn’t going to stop us from getting out. Especially now Tom is walking and so is no longer having to crawl his way through wet grass.

I thought I was going to have to look into some barefoot shoes for him (are barefoot wellies a thing? Must check…) but fortunately found a pair of these ‘rain footies’ on eBay. They are essentially plastic bags that attach with some elastic round the ankles. It’ll be a long time before he grows out of them, but he still seems able to walk ok. Waterproof trousers are definitely next on the wishlist.

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We’ve enjoyed pottering around the cat litter box garden, investigating the local wildlife.

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And the play area of the park is completely abandoned when it’s wet, giving Tom a chance to play without getting trampled by bigger kids.

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All in all, wet weather is no reason to stay inside. We love playing in the rain!

Monkey and Mouse

 

Why Do We Bother?

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I think by now most people know the benefits of getting our kids playing outside. All those great things about tackling obesity, supporting mental health, and developing a love of nature that (hopefully) will lead to more environmentally conscious future adults.

All those things are great. They are worth making time for. And they all have an influence on my decision to make this pledge to get out with Tom every day. But they aren’t the whole reason, or even the most important reason.

The most important reason I make such an effort to spend time with Tom outside? It’s very simple. It makes me happy. And it seems to make Tom happy too.

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Although this blog may feature Weekly Reports and refer to the pledge I made as a challenge, at the end of the day, I don’t do any of these things to tick some ‘worthy parent’ box or because I feel like I have to do them to bring up Tom ‘properly’. I do them because, even on the days when I don’t initially want to leave the house, I have a great time.

What better reason is there to get outdoors?

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Also, look! He can walk!!

Weekly Report: Much Improved

Things are (finally) back to normal in the Wildling household. The week commencing 12 October was the first time in five weeks that I actually did my usual part time work. No courses, no jury service. What a relief!

Here’s how the week went:

Monday – I had an appointment in the morning, then Tom had his one year development review after lunch. Mr Techno came along too, so we stopped off in the park for some family playtime afterwards.

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Wednesday – the day started sunny, so Tom and I headed to the (oddly abandoned) playground. He pottered around happily, whilst I watched from a nearby vantage point. We went for a walk in the afternoon, stopping off on the Marshes for Tom to have an explore. At which point it started chucking it down. We were miles from home, so all we could do was stay to enjoy it (and be glad of our waterproofs…)

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Thursday – a work day, so our usual walk in through the park/afternoon play in the park routine applied.

Friday – as above

Saturday – we went on our bear (crab) hunt! Read all about it here

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Sunday – my poor little Wildling had picked up a cold at nursery (as he does every other week) and was feeling a bit under the weather, so we kept it low key. We went for a walk in the sling in the morning, then ran some errands in the afternoon.

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It’s been lovely getting back to our normal routine. I’ve missed having a bit of extra time to find more imaginative ways to enjoy the outdoors. Verdict: much improved!

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We’re going on a…crab hunt?

The book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, was one of my family’s favourites growing up. We had the CD, which we used to play in the car on long journeys, and even as adults my siblings and I will recite parts of it.

I love it as a parent as well. It has a great rhythm for reading out loud, is a good length, and best of all, it introduces lots of different environments, complete with sound effects.

So when Tom woke up unnecessarily early from his afternoon nap on Saturday, I decided to make use of our extra time and take him on a bear hunt*.

We set off with Tom on the buggy, teddy in tow for hunting.

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Unfortunately, Tom had other ideas, preferring to ‘hunt’ a plastic crab rattle he had found in the bottom of the buggy. So our bear hunt turned into a crab hunt.

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We hunted crabs in the long, wavy grass.

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And by a deep, cold river (ok, so we didn’t go in. It’s October!)

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Lack of rain meant no mud could be found, so we had to settle for some dirt at the foot of this tree.

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But we did discover a big, dark forest.

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It’s a little early in the year for snowstorms, and the closest thing we could find to a cave was the underpass under Lee Bridge Road. No way was I letting Tom out of the buggy there! All in all though, we had a great time, put the book into a real life context, and explored areas I wouldn’t usually head for. And of course we read the book when we got home.

*Although I had thought of doing this before, I also spotted this fantastic post on things to do outdoors in the autumn, which helped to inspire me: http://www.sunhatsandwellieboots.com/2013/10/50-outdoor-activities-for-kids-this.html

Life Unexpected

Barriers to Wild Time #2: Risk Averse Culture

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Like every parent, I started worrying about Tom from the moment I knew I was pregnant. Once he was born, that worry only intensified. He was so small and so vulnerable and the world seemed so full of things that could harm him.

Thankfully, I am surrounded by very practical, down-to-earth people. And some (long) time after Tom’s birth, I emerged from the sea of overprotective-new-mother hormones with at least some of my rational faculties still intact. That doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t still in my mouth every time I watch him making his perilous way upstairs, or negotiating his way down from the armchair in his room. It just means that I remember to swallow the words ‘watch out’ more often and fight back the urge to interfere.

I really do believe that it is impossible to learn without making some mistakes. Like all new toddlers, learning to walk is meaning a lot of falls for Tom. But I’ve learnt to let him fall (unless it would mean serious injury), because otherwise he will never learn how not to fall. And a kiss and a cuddle soothes most bumps.

This attitude of trusting Tom to be able to learn from his own mistakes has been a great help in overcoming the perception of the risks found in the natural world. Especially when Tom was a bit younger and everything went straight in his mouth. Here are a few things I have found helpful when spending time with a baby outdoors:
1. Taste Safe
When Tom was first able to crawl, and could suddenly escape from the protective blanket to grab everything within reach and try to eat it, I found it really difficult not to snatch every single thing out of his hand. Eventually, I taught myself to differentiate between things that are dangerous (poisonous plants, small stones, dog poo etc), things that are ‘taste safe’ ie. fine to lick but not to swallow, and things that are harmless if swallowed (edible plants such as dandelions, grass, clover etc.) Most things actually fall into the ‘taste safe’ category. Fortunately, most of them also don’t taste good, so are quickly spat back out again. Interestingly, once I relaxed and let Tom mouth more things (keeping an eye out in case it looked like they were about to be swallowed), he soon decided that most things in the park weren’t worth eating. He still likes a good blackberry though and the odd dandelion will occasionally disappear…

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2. Embrace the dirt
Along with relaxing about Tom putting everything in his mouth, I have a very chilled out approach to him mucking around in the dirt. Granted, some does get eaten, but only minuscule amounts and there may even be some advantage to this.

3. Pick your Spot
So that Tom can get on with exploring without me jumping on him every few moments, I scout out an area before we settle down. I avoid anywhere I can see dog poo , cigarette butts or large amounts of rubbish, pick up smaller bits of rubbish (I carry a spare plastic bag in my handbag just for this purpose), and try to choose somewhere that has a good amount of space, so I’m not constantly dragging Tom away from a bank of stinging nettles.

4. Allow Some Distance
According to the Nature Play website, most children have a ‘safety line’; a distance which they are prepared to go from you. Experiments with Tom suggest that this line will be just a little bit longer than what you would be comfortable with! However, I have found that he won’t go more than about 5 or 6 metres from me – a distance I can easily cover if he gets into a sticky situation. I can also see most of what he is doing, but am too far away to be tempted to interfere with every little thing. It’s taken some time for me to get used to this, and I am still not entirely comfortable with him being so far away from me, but he has never caused himself any damage and ‘checks in’ with me regularly (glances over to check where I am or comes over to show me something he’s found).

Wild Baby

Ultimately, I think that overcoming our perception of the outside world as ‘risky’ to babies and young toddlers takes time and requires a shift in attitude. Once you see your baby as a capable small being, able to learn from his mistakes and act in his own best interests, it is easier to accept that the risks are not really as great as they first seem.

The Natural Play website has some great advice for enabling babies and toddlers to explore freely outside: http://www.nature-play.co.uk/guidelines.html