Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I am a big believer in going outside as much as possible. We try and get outside at least once a day, whatever the weather, to a park or playground or common or farm, or even just for an exploratory walk around the block.
Last week after a particularly lovely morning in a local park, I decided on the spur-of-the-moment to set up a free outdoor playgroup for local parents and children, and so it was born. I announced this on a couple of local parent Facebook groups and was overwhelmed at the number of positive responses I received – so much so that I had to ask people to register via email and have had to start a waiting list, for fear of fifty mums and kiddos all turning up at once!
Around 13 mums and 17 children turned up, as well as two grandmothers (one being Frida’s), which felt quite manageable as some engaged with the activities I had set up whilst some chased squirrels and kicked leaves and ran about in the autumn sunshine.
I brought along a big saucepan, a small tin roasting dish and a few play-size pans along with some utensils and spoons. I’ve found that Frida enjoys “cooking” and hoped some of the other children would too. In a nod to the season I also took two baby pumpkins which were small enough for even the littlest of hands to pick up and handle.
I also packed some paper and our trusty Stockmar crayons for leaf and bark rubbing, and general drawing.
I don’t think children really need materials or planned activities outdoors – there is so much to touch and play with and see outside as it is, with squirrels and leaves and sticks and stones and mud. I especially loved seeing a scrummy seven-month old exploring twigs and leaves and conkers with her mama. But I do think some simple play prompts can be a nice addition.
In future weeks I might make some playdough to bring, or pack some cupcake papers to make mud cakes on rainy days, or a tray for simple water play, or bring tape and paper for leaf collages.
We had really beautiful weather for it today with golden sunshine warming us – no need for coats! That said, I’m almost looking forward to our first wet session, as mud is such a brilliant and fun thing to play in.
I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces and meeting lots of new ones, and am so glad I took the plunge and decided to step out of my comfort zone and organise something.
Does your child attend an outdoor playgroup? If there’s not one locally, why not set one up? All you need is a green space and a few people (and a willingness to get grubby).
If you are interested in outdoor play and getting mucky, here are some books you might be interested in:
- Last Child in the Woods by Richard Low – a brilliant book on why children desperately need to be outdoors
- Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton and Jane Worral – great ideas for outdoor activities for children (most suitable from age 3+ but worth a read for ideas at any age)
- Let Them Eat Dirt by Brett Finley and Marie-Claire Arietta – an excellent read on why letting children get dirty, and exposing them to microbes, is hugely beneficial for their health