In today's digital age — and not to mention, in the midst of a Covid pandemic — children have been spending a lot of time at home, eyes glued to screens, and their hands gripping electronic gadgets. However, whilst gadgets may serve as stimuli for promoting learning, speech, and motivation, getting outdoors is super important too.
A study commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts found that engaging with nature can improve children's school performance, behavioural conduct, concentration, social relationships, and even their confidence. In fact, the findings demonstrated that four out of five children say they feel more confident in themselves after spending time participating in outdoor activities.
When done with a parent or carer in tow, outdoor adventures in nature can be avenues for bonding, too! So, as lockdown begins to lift and the world feels a little more 'normal', we can all reap these benefits and enjoy some fresh air with our little ones. Here are some essentials you might want to take along.
1. Spare Clothes
There is nothing that makes us happier than seeing our children explore and get a bit mucky, so it's always a good idea to keep a spare change of clothes and a towel in the car or a backpack. We've been known to pack their swimwear too (or puddlesuit – the Muddy Puddles kit is fab!), in case you spot a stream and your kids want to splash around in it. Depending on the weather, you might want to take some extra layers and of course when the sun is out remember that sun hat - we love the brilliantly unique designs from Little Hotdog Watson.
2. Snacks and Drinks
Active kids get hungry and dehydrated easily; so it's a good idea to prepare snacks and drinks. According to hydration guidelines from the NHS, children aged up to 8 years should drink at least one litre of fluid a day. But remember, if it is a hot day or if your children are really active, they should drink more! As much as possible, we try to steer clear from drinks with added sugar or sweeteners and stick to water, milk, or a Small & Wild tea in a flask!
When hunger strikes, fruit and vegetable slices, like apples, oranges, and carrots are staples for us. Bringing these pre-cut means they can be easily eaten on the go. We're big fans of a home made trail mix of chopped nuts, dried fruit, and oatcakes in a zip-lock bag too.
3. Comfortable Shoes
Keeping kids comfortable during walks is paramount. Ensure they are wearing comfortable (possibly waterproof) footwear to protect their feet and avoid them getting cranky a few metres in! And pick wisely - sadly, the wrong kind of shoes might lead to bigger problems as they grow older, as proven by a study in the Journal for Foot and Ankle Research, so make sure you prioritise lightweight and flexible pairs. For hiking shoes/boots, we like this list of options featured on The Independent, and if it's wellies you're after, take a look at Grass & Air - their beautiful colour-changing designs are high up on our wish list.
4. A Camera
We’ve all experienced a kid declare that walks are boring from time to time, but with the right resources, they can easily be turned into an exciting exploration, depending on what you bring. A camera will allow them to capture the interesting things they spot, or you could set them a challenge to capture shots from a check list. Both the VTech Kidizoom and Kurio Snap come highly recommended by Wired. When you get home after your walk, you turn the pictures into a simple photo or scrap book. If a camera seems above and beyond, then even a pencil and piece of paper will do to doodle and sketch (or a wax crayon for some tree/leaf rubbings) - anything to record what you have seen and done.
5. Treasure Containers
If you have mini artists-in-the-making, don’t forget to take a container with you. Task your little people to fill it with 'treasures' (think leaves, flowers, pebbles) they may find, and let them create an art project when you return home – a collage, sculpture or whatever their imagination contrives. Or if you want to encourage your children to be more engaged with nature, you can carry a magnifying glass with you and take a closer look at ants, spiders, beetles, or other bugs you may see on your walk. You can also bring a jar with you (with holes punched in the lid) in case they want to collect some of these bugs and inspect them more when you get home.
No matter what resources you have handy or the destinations you have in mind, be sure to enjoy these adventures together with your children. You are not only cultivating their skills and abilities as budding young adventurers, but you are also building a stronger relationship with them.
Written by Alysha Clarke, blogger, fitness coach & mum in collaboration with Small & Wild