One of my golden rules of parenting (I don’t have very many!) is to go outside at least once a day. On days when I don’t manage this, I really see the effects, both with myself and with Frida. We are grumpier, more restless, and I feel tired and lethargic. However, I think there are different degrees of being outside! Popping to the shops to buy food for supper is better than nothing, but I try and make as much time as possible for visits to the local parks and commons and playgrounds.
I have been reading a lot about incorporating a Montessori philosophy into Frida’s upbringing, and one of the things that is always stressed is the importance of nature to young children – not just being shown it from a sling or a pushchair, but being encouraged to touch, to crawl around, to get their hands dirty. I hate to admit it but we could definitely be better at this – often we will forget to provide her with the opportunity, or make excuses (too rainy, too cold, getting dark…)
Today we took Frida to a playground within a common, and whilst pushing her on the swings it became clear that she was transfixed by two little boys playing on some cut logs. She very clearly wanted to be close to them so we put her onto the grass nearby and observed her. She was delighted although kept her distance at first, and then slowly crawled over to them, looking so pleased with herself, and tried to be involved in their game. When they eventually left to play somewhere else she had a great time pulling herself up on the logs, crawling around, and generally getting very grubby.
She certainly had a far richer experience than the times that we have just transferred her between the sling and the swing! It was a great reminder not just to encourage her to interact with nature more, but also to be child-led in our actions, following her lead and letting her guide us with what she wants.
It’s not just when we have arrived at our destination either. When she is in the sling I have been making a real effort over the last few weeks to stop regularly and let her touch different textures as we walk – a brick wall feels different to a wooden gate, which feels different to a patch of pebbledash or smooth concrete. She is always so happy to stop and have a feel, it only takes a few more minutes, but I think it brings a lovely element into our walks, and certainly encourages me to be more mindful and present in my surroundings. I talk to her about what she can see and feel and hear, and in doing so ground myself a little at the same time.