We all suffer from technology overload these days – our children in particular – and while we can’t help the prevalence of cell phones, tablets and laptops, sometimes it’s good to take a break. Last year, I made it my mission to get the kids using the garden more and enjoy some good old-fashioned, unstructured playtime. I also started arranging for us all to get out there together at least once a week.
This is not always a straightforward task. All the after-school clubs and homework schedules, plus the fact that we’re such a big family often means we’re hardly under the same roof at any time, let alone the garden. But the trick is to pick something they’re already into and use it to lead onto a new interest.
All those outdoor hiking trips certainly came in handy when I suggested we all camp in the back garden one weekend, using the chance to play some ball games and do some star-gazing later when it got dark. The great thing about this idea is it introduces them to a whole other world of wildlife out there beyond the lawnmowers and plant -pots
; we spotted a kestrel hovering not far off and the evening brought quite a few nocturnal noises the kids had fun trying to identify.
It’s easy to build on this once you’ve got them hooked, giving them bird-spotting challenges to do, finding and drawing different insects, having family scavenger hunts. We even spent one Sunday making a wormery out of old pickle jars – which ended up being more of a challenge for their squeamish Mom than for the kids!
Even if your children aren’t the outdoor-type, there’s plenty of ways to get them out there, from gathering leaves and cones for a craft project, to digging a pond and letting the wildlife come to you. With things like the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act championing the benefits of outdoor play for their health and wellbeing, there’s no excuse not to get out and discover the best bits of your own backyard.