Welcome to the July 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Summer Fun
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about how to get out and enjoy the warmer season as a family.
A blog post about what we get up to in the summer months could be pages long, as we are a very active family regardless of the weather, but in the warmer summer months we are out and about even more than ever. To keep it concise I have broken up our activities into mini themes to help you navigate;
– Camping; as a family we love going camping, using our trusty 3 person tunnel tent as our home from home, with a good size porch giving space to eat if the weather is bad and space for our Labrador to sleep. The Tiny Camp-sites book has really inspired us; all the
camp-sites are an acre or less, many rustic with rather basic facilities, which is just what we like. We prefer the feel of almost camping in someone’s back garden, as opposed to camping on a large camp-site with all mod-cons.
For instance, at the end of June this year, we returned to The Buzzards camp-site in Hereforshire, where we were again the only campers. This is a friendly, small camp-site with a compost-able toilet (and another toilet attached to the owner’s home with a shower too) and place to light a fire.
Camping can be a lot of effort with children, but it is worth all the preparation and kit which is required, just to see the children’s faces as they wake up under canvas and realise where they are, to see them running freely around the camp-site, to step out directly into nature and to cook outdoors, to name just a few of the many perks! We are now slowly ticking our way through the Tiny Campsites book; if you live in the UK, I’d highly recommend it.
– Wild camping; as experienced campers, with a husband who has wild camped since he was a young boy, we have taken the children wild camping a number of times. Wild camping is define as camping away from organised campsites, in the UK there is no legal right to wild camp except in Scotland and in Dartmoor. For us the wonder about wild camping is camping amongst
nature away from a managed camp-site. It offers seclusion and a rich experience in nature, free from our ultra connected modern lives. In most of England, you must gain the landowners permission to wild camp, although camping for one night in the mountains, well away from towns and villages is generally accepted. We are very fortunate to have a good friend who owns a beautiful woodland in the Eden Valley in northern England, where we camp every year. This is wild camping, but without the long walk to a camping place a more typical wild camp often entails, so it is ideal with a young family as we don’t have to carry our kit too far. When we were a one child family, we did wild camp in Scotland in more remote places with longer walk-ins, but we have yet to try that now that we have two young children. It is on our list though! See my blog post on wild camping for more inspiration.
My husband also wild camps in the mountains with our son, who is now 5, whilst on mountaineering expeditions. He is hoping to take our daughter along with them next year, but at present she is
nursing at night time so this isn’t possible. Wild camping takes even more preparation and some level of expertise to be successful, but it is possible and can be very enjoyable and rewarding with children, even toddlers. Tessa was only one when she first wild camped and Ewan went on his first wild camp in the mountains when he was just three.
– Long walks; we are a family of walkers, very much helped by having a Labrador which means we have to get out on at least one walk per day. However, this is often an excuse as without a walk every day I go stir-crazy, as do the kids! As a busy mum juggling a home, children, work and various hobbies, going on a walk in the local woods with the children is one of my happiest, most switched-on times of the day. I feel more connected to the children, less distracted from the many jobs which are always looming when at home.
The children are so used to walking they are almost always happy to go for a walk, but both do have an explorers ruc-sac which contains a magnifying glass, binoculars, a map, a bug catcher, etc, which they sometimes take with them.
We head out in all weathers, our favourite haunt being the local woods where there is a stream for the dog and children to splash in, wild flowers to admire, a grassy bank to run down and a lake to admire the ducks on.
I take the sling for Tessa as well as the all terrain pushchair, so that both children can have a rest if needs be. This also means we can go further afield if we want to. We are fortunate to live close to beautiful open countryside,
which does make it easier to immerse ourselves in nature, but as we explore the local woods and hills my heart always aches, for my children are very much an endangered species in this natural environment. This saddens me immensely, confirming that many children are now suffering from nature deficit disorder.
The natural environment offers many learning opportunities for the children (and for me!), such as learning the names of plants and trees, learning abut weather and looking after oneself, as well as opportunities to practise counting and the skill of writing and drawing in the soil and on rocks.
We also love foraging, every summer picking elder-flowers to make cordial and blackberries in the autumn. One of my aims is to be more adventurous with foraging, as there is an abundance of natural foods just waiting to be picked from our local hedgerows and woods. Watch this space…
When Ewan is at playgroup I often put Tessa in the sling and go for a long walk in the beautiful Longshaw Estate. This
is my time to reflect, recuperate and stretch my legs. Tessa often has a long nap in the sling, then when she wakes she walks a little and we have a picnic. I love this special time with just my daughter, as a second child it is important she has this one-on-one mother daughter time. We return to pick up Ewan refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day.
– Wild picnics; When we are out on long walks, we often take a
picnic with us so we don’t have to head home for lunch, or sometimes if it is later in the day I pack an evening meal. I carry the picnic and a Thermos flask with me, finding a spot on the way for us to eat. I use a lightweight picnic blanket so we always have somewhere dry to sit down, and if it is raining we sometimes erect a tarpaulin shelter too.
This way we can stay out longer, which brings it’s won rewards we we experience nature at different times of the day. It also means the children are well fed and hydrated, making exploring a far more enjoyable experience for us all! Even if we don’t have a full picnic, I always take a number of appetising snacks with us, as the children always work up an appetite in the great outdoors, as do I!
– Time in the woods; I am currently training to be a Forest School practitioner. To help practise my skills, when time affords we take the tarpaulin shelter and a Kelly Kettle (a portable device for boiling
water outdoors using twigs and other combustible materials) and head into the woods to practise woodland skills. In the past my husband always put up the shelter, lit the fire and made a brew as I focussed on the children, but now we
both do and the children also muck in too! Ewan has been attending forest school for two years, so is very familiar with woodland activities and happy to help me. In fact he teaches me as much as I teach him! I love sitting under a shelter sipping a cup of tea with the children on my lap or off playing close by in the woods. The woods offers a true sense of peace and tranquillity and moments of mindfulness rarely experienced elsewhere.
– Days out; We also like to go on day trips to local outdoor attractions as a family at the weekends or in the week as part of our home education, such as Criche Tramway Museum, Cromford Canal, Chatsworth House,
many National Trust properties and park-lands, such as Longshaw Estate and Hardwick Hall, and to local nature reserves. We also support Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, going to events such as walks at nature reserves and family craft
activities, as well as every month to the Wildlife Watch club for children.
We are introducing the children to climbing outdoors and to cycling, both important skills we would like the children to learn in a fun way. We also enjoy outdoor theatre events, where we can enjoy a special picnic before watching a children’s theatre show in the great outdoors. Again, we are fortunate to live in an area which is rich in natural resources, living on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park.
– Time in the garden; Even when our days are too busy to head further afield, when swimming lessons, martial arts class and other scheduled activities limit what we can do outdoors, we still like to eat our meals outdoors in the summer on the patio, letting the children play in the garden in their little playhouse and in the sand. The children sometimes simply while the time away in the hammock or the swing when it is hot or for a break, for it is important to have time to just be, looking up at the trees and sky above and listening to the birds chirruping.
We also have a fire pit at the bottom of our garden, which we light and even cook on when we get chance. We grow rhubarb, gooseberries, apples, strawberries and mint in the garden, in the past also managing a small
vegetable patch which I would like to utilise again with the children. It is very satisfying to grow food in the garden, whilst teaching the children a valuable lesson in where our food comes from, not just the fruit and veg box we get delivered or the man in a van with our online food shop! We really live outdoors as much as possible in the summer, as our living room is hardly used!
– Holidays; One of our favourite holiday destinations is Scotland, which holds many special memories for my husband and I and now for our children too. We love the beauty, remoteness and the wildness the islands and highlands of Scotland offer, which is why we head back year after year after year! We also head further afield, this summer planning a fortnight in the Alps in France. We are quite adventurous travellers, having
ventured as far afield as the Himalayas of Nepal last year and Bali in 2012; we have also been to the Sheltand Isles and to French Canada as a family, and have aspirations to travel to many more adventurous destinations in the future. Adventurous travel with children,
like camping, takes commitment, preparation and the right kit, but reaps so many rewards, in the form of sacred family time, the opportunity to discover new places, cultures and natural environments, and countless learning opportunities for the children and for us, to name just a few.
So there’s my list! It is not exhaustible, but is an insight into what we get up to in the summer months. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon July 14 with all the carnival links.)
- All my Summers — The Barefoot Mama reflects on summers past and talks about the changing dynamics of her family life.
- Wild summer days — Stoneageparent shares some of the many delights the summer offers to her already nature loving, outdoor family.
- How to Make a Messy Fun Car Emergency Kit (+ a Recipe for Homemade Disinfecting Wipes) — It can be a huge pain to clean up muddy, sandy kids before they climb in the car, but what would childhood be without the wonder of dirt and mud and nature?! Today Dionna at Code Name: Mama is sharing a few handy things to keep in the trunk of your car year-round so that you feel more comfortable with the mess.
- The Best Part of Summer — Rachael at The Variegated Life has a portable escape route that helps her enjoy all of summer.
- 8 Summer Picture Books for Toddlers & Preschoolers — Holly at Leaves of Lavender offers a list of eight picture books that celebrate the warmth of summer.
- How to help your kids run a marathon, mile by mile — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how to make a family racing goal manageable even for movement-averse children with regular small-scale training and lots of motivation.
- Montessori-Inspired Compass Rose Activities and Outdoor Compass Walks — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares links to free Montessori-inspired compass rose printables along with compass activities and outdoor compass walks … perfect for summer learning.