Lately I’ve often heard that the holidays are no longer the same as they used to be when I was a kid. Such complaints might be caused by nostalgic memories - the grass back then was greener, the roasted marshmallows were crispier, etc. Naturally, lots of things have changed. For example, there’s a much wider array of children's activities nowadays and we also tend to organise kids’ free time much more. Despite all this, I think we can still find more similarities than differences. Just like in the past, today we associate summer and holidays with things like nature, sunny days, and adventures. And that's how it should be. Research confirms what we all already know – that nature is very beneficial for our physical and mental health. And our children benefit the same way from spontaneous games and freedom during play, not from being controlled all the time.
‘Don’t climb that tree, you’ll fall down! Put your shoes on! Wash your muddy hands right away!’ Do you often hear these words? Or are you the one saying them? If you’re one of those parents who are too afraid their children are going to get hurt or dirty, try to worry a bit less this year. Not only will you enjoy the summer more, but you’ll help your kids as well, because all these activities have a positive impact on their health. For example, climbing a tree is not only beneficial for their fitness, but it also improves concentration, planning skills, and self-confidence. By doing this adventurous activity, new neural connections in children’s brains are created. Of course, it’s important to mind all the safety rules and use common sense. Make sure your kids feel safe during their climbing adventures; an adult should always stay close to them.
In a similar way, walking barefoot is not only comfortable, but also healthy. You might’ve tried different tactile paths filled with cones or stones and found it to be a great experience, but walking directly in nature without shoes feels even better. It’s quite enjoyable to walk between sandstone mountains, for example, where the sand on the ground is mixed with sweet-smelling needles and cones. Soaking your bare feet in a cold stream also feels really amazing. Walking barefoot is a great way to relax and improve your posture. A very similar thing happens when we’re playing with mud – which we touch using our bare hands. Playing with mud helps us relax and boosts our immune system; so getting a bit muddy or building something out of the soil helps both our bodies and minds.
Where’s the best toy shop in the world? Out in nature! Just look around: you’ll see all the little stones and sticks and other materials that can be used to create various things. How about building a hut for the forest elves, making funny creatures, or even creating colourful mandalas? While doing so, kids will experiment, plan, develop their creativity, and learn to distinguish between different shapes, colours, and scents. Your garden can also be a wild toy shop – especially if it's full of life. The best place for kids to play is a garden that has a piece of wilderness. So let your lawn mower take a rest for awhile and observe how your garden starts filling with butterflies, bees, and your kids as well. Leave just a corner of your yard as the ‘wilderness’ area where kids can go to observe insects, hedgehogs, and other creatures that seek shelter in the thick grass.
Kids have the amazing ability to be awed by everything and to view the world as one big adventure. However, we need to let children get bored once in a while and it’s not always necessary to create a programme for them. If we give them free space, they can entertain themselves by playing a made-up game or by observing ants, for example. Of course, this doesn't mean we should stop doing things together, like going for a trip. The best trips are the ones that are enjoyable for everybody. Visiting a place you would like to discover doesn't necessarily mean it has to be boring for the rest of your family. Just transform an ordinary family trip into an exciting treasure hunt! Let your kids decide which path the treasure-hoarding giant took. Say things like, ‘Does this hole look like his footprint?’ and ‘Over there! He might have taken a nap in that crushed grass.’
Or you could even prepare a picture map beforehand, where you point out the location kids should look for. Or how about trying a research expedition? All you need is to pack some basic research tools such as a magnifying glass, a notepad, and crayons. Next time you’re visiting Grandma and Grandpa with your kids, try to discover all the secrets hidden in your parents’ attic. Quite often you’ll find lots of interesting objects that are no longer being used. Try to guess with your kids who the last person to use that object was and when it was last used. And who knows, maybe you find a real treasure!
We wish you wild, outdoor-loving, and more importantly, joyful holidays!
Author: Ladislava Whitcroft, Educational Specialist at Lipa Learning
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