1 in 9 English children have not been to a natural environment in the last year, and the blame is often put onto our urbanised living. Well that needn't be the excuse – Addi from TeamAA, and Leeds resident is here to give you some tips for urban exploration.
Worryingly, research from Natural England shows that one in nine children in England have not been to a natural environment in the past 12 months. It also concludes the enthusiasm of parents is key to regular contact with nature. In major cities the increasingly busy workloads, the lure of digital technology and the lack of green spaces has helped to lead to these enclosed lives. But living in a city shouldn't be reason to stay inside. Urban wildness exists; there is always a little green space to discover nearby.
Here’s some of our ideas for opportunities to create fun outdoor experiences for everyone, tested by two little ladies!
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water
The UK canals, with their colourful history, offer a great escape to nature. Visit your closest one on a recreational walk, a cycling trip or even give canoeing a try.
If you have children this is an opportunity to discuss the issue of being safe near water and how this resource is limited and how they can use water with care. Why not give the children a camera and let them show you their world through the lens? Print their photos and hang them up at home. It will bring nature closer to your heart and show the amazing artists how much they are valued.
Find a place to camp and sleep underneath the stars. Even one nights’ sleep outdoors can have incredible benefits on our wellbeing. It’s been discovered that camping helps reset our natural circadian clocks, allowing us to feel more rested.
Setting up the tent comes with its additional exercise benefits and for those with young ones, ask them to help put the tent up. It’s incredible how well they tackle challenges if given time and space.
We’re not lost, we’re Geocaching!
Join the world's largest free treasure hunt! Using your mobile phone, GPS device or a map, you can play hide and/or seek for containers called "geocaches" all across the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container with a logbook, a pencil and sometimes with trinkets for trading. Find it, sign your name and swap treasures.
Geocaching great way to become deeply involved with the environment and to experiment with navigating. For those with families, give the children the responsible task of leading a route. Teach them the necessary skills to explore the environment independently. Listen, value and act on their ideas. But above all: have fun getting lost and discovering your nearest green spaces.
Welcome to the farm
Being around animals is important, it allows us to develop empathy with nature and it’s good for the soul. A farm visit helps challenge misconceptions about farming and dispel any ignorance about where food we eat comes from. Our bodily sensations awake when we are near animals and we also get to learn a lot about them and their habitats. Teach the young generation how to be kind to animals by showing them that they too have similar needs to us for food, water, shelter, love and care.
Happiness is a day at the beach
Take a trip to the closest seaside. It allows the mind to relax and wander. Collect ‘treasures’ in shape of interesting sticks, shells or rocks. Build sand-pies. Walk across the beach and feel the breeze on your skin. Listen to the waves. Be like a child; get your feet wet even on a cold winter day. Did you know getting a lungful of the smell given off by the sea helps us sleep better?
Bring your own weather to a picnic
Have a picnic and include a variety of healthy options. If you have children, pack board games and take a favourite toy along. Choose a green area somewhere; a public park, the woods, a little patch of green grass; they’re all good spots. Remember, simply being outside makes us feel good and helps us absorb precious mood-boosting vitamin D through sunlight; even on a grey and cloudy day.
A picnic is an opportunity to explore the world through our senses, to see, to smell, to taste and to touch. On a windy day, lie down and watch the clouds form patterns whilst moving across the sky.
Climb a tree, discover a new world
‘Children’ of all ages should get excited about climbing trees! Even in urbanized areas, finding a ‘good one’ is never too far. Climbing trees not only provides an excellent workout but it also teaches us how to take responsible risks and how to manage our own safety.
Once up there, enjoy looking at the world from a totally different perspective. For those feeling creative, a rope hanging securely from a sturdy branch with a piece of wood tied to the bottom makes an excellent swing. Being physically active allows our minds to engage more, making us see life differently; making us happier.
Walking; a man’s best medicine
You’ll be surprised how good walking feels. Go for a quick urban stroll or for an all-day challenging hike to your favorite green space. Go alone, take your four-legged friend, be joined by friends or invite your family.
The outdoor environment is so stimulating and constantly changing, it helps us develop an awareness of the seasons. When it snows, watch your footprints on the ground. When it rains, splash in puddles. When it’s sunny, collect leaves to laminate at home. When the wind blows, try walking balancing sticks on your head.
The outside world can be one big playground, full of fascinating textures that want to be discovered if we stop and look closely. From a bumpy stone path waiting to be walked on, to an old tree bark waiting to be hugged. Out in the open, whistle and sing to your hearts’ content. If you’re feeling particularly merry, throw in a little dance too!
It doesn’t matter what type of outdoor space you visit or the length of your stay. Any experience in nature is a special one. Living in a city is no reason to prevent us from discovering nature. Remember to make time for what truly matters. We hope our suggestions help inspire you to create your own get outside happy adventures!
By Addi Man (TeamAA)
TeamAA is the mother/daughter team of Addi and 8 year-old Athina, who love to take the time to enjoy the outdoors and all the things they value: sports, nature, animals, history & culture. Previous winners of the Sean Conway Adventure Scholarship, the duo are planning more adventures in 2017, including walking the Pennine Way together, from the Peak District to Scotland. They hope their fun stories will stimulate the imagination of others to explore the outdoors