Lockdown is hard. Harder than the summer. Let’s not pretend that it isn’t. Some of the challenges are common to us all. Others are unique to our own homes and families. And we don’t all have the same capacity to manage the challenges ahead of us – there is no one size fits all solution. But could time outdoors make it a little easier?
For our family exercise and outdoor time are two of the things that help. But with chickens under lockdown too (Avian Flu means they are locked up) and a little early for the allotment (although I may have had an accident with a seeds catalogue that saw me clicking way too many buttons which means planting starts soon) - combined with precious few minutes (busy jobs, 4 children and home schooling) - we were struggling with what to do.
And the answer came in the form of our OS personalised map centred around our home.
Exercise during lockdown should stay local. And we know that learning is not limited to the laptop. So, combining these we are exploring the 3 miles around our home with our 8 and 9 year olds. Granted we live in the middle of a forest – we are lucky with the spaces we have to explore (although the fat and fifty in me could live with less mud, tree roots and hills so it isn’t all country love).
But the principles are the same wherever you are.
Bird spotting in local park
5 tested tips for exploring local
- You can buy a personalised map or use the OS Maps app to look at routes and points of interest. But also try your local parish or town council who will often have local maps on their site that you can print off.
- Draw a 3 mile circle around your house. Yes - draw on a map. Don’t @ me purists! Why 3 miles? This is the distance government thinks most children over 8 should be able to walk to school so it’s a good starting point but adjust as needed for your own child.
- Look at all the symbols in that area. Encourage your children to learn what they are. Help them find the things that they have already visited in that 3 miles. School. Church. Really steep hill (yes - I have a thing for avoiding those – it is a repeated theme in my writing). This helps them picture where they live in relation to these markers. If you need to learn this yourself you can’t go far wrong with OS's free map reading guides for kids or head over to BBC Bitesize.
- Map a route to something they already know. Yes, draw on map again if you need to. (I can hear the intakes of breath – use a pencil it rubs out!) And walk it. This needs the usuals, decent footwear, weather-proof clothes and bribery food and drink as needed.
- But make the walk more than a walk. Make it an exercise in really knowing the local area.
The Great British Journal
Make a walk more than just a walk
- Making up new map symbols. There is a ‘snowman’ etched in the ground on a path near our home. It now sits on the map.
- Do a litter pick. Gloves, a grabber if you have one and a rubbish sack. How much litter on the route? How many pieces? How much did it weigh? Can you find the nearest bins and mark them on the map?
- Find the perfect view. Bonus points if it comes with somewhere for mummy to sit to tie her laces (she means rest). Take pens and paper so you can draw it. Camera to photograph it. Mark it on the map. Write up a description (and use lots of describing words).
- Notice nature. Connecting to nature improves well-being. And the more conscious these connections the more that it helps. For ideas on how to connect download the 30 Days Wild App from Wildlife Trusts. On your walk watch out for specific things – plants, animals, colours, sounds. Mushrooms and toadstools are out at moment and first flowers will be bursting up soon. Draw them onto the map. Research them when you get home. Record sounds. Bottle smells (although do not leave the rotting leaves in your handbag for too long would be my best ‘learnt from real life’ tip).
- Share the joy. Tag me at @anitakntweets or share on Instagram using #getoutside. Capture it in an adventure journal that grandparents can read. Send drawings and photos to friends and relatives. Capture your routes on the OS Maps app so others can use them.
Kids doing hard marking on fallen tree
Gradually increase length and move from routes from the familiar to the walks to the new. Use the new GetOutside app for new local inspirations.
But. Don’t set mad targets. As I said at the start. Lockdown mark 3 will be tough. Ignore the images (or blogs!) that suggest everyone is a on journey of self-improvement. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.
And learn to love the local.