Wild Green Parenting
By Zion Lights
"Two years ago I wrote a book titled 'The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting', which examines different approaches to parenting based on what science tells us. An entire chapter is dedicated to wild time, and there’s masses of research supporting wild time: I couldn’t possibly go into it all here. But, I will point out that walking in green spaces has been found to reduce mental health problems, and even just seeing trees can make you feel healthier. So if you have an anxious, stressed child with too much homework and schoolwork, take time for a trip to the park!
Most of the parents I speak to already agree that kids need more time outdoors, but they don’t have the time or energy for it. I think of it the opposite way: spending time in nature is recharging, and stress-free time is essential to our busy lifestyles. In Japan the idea of forest bathing, which they call Shinrin-Yoku, is so popular that it’s part of the public health program. I’m hoping that it catches on in Britain too.
As well, younger generations won’t help to conserve the biodiversity of this blue planet unless they learn to love its flora and fauna.
I think everyone can find a way to connect with nature, whether it’s through rock or tree climbing, playing football, camping or simply picnicking in the local park. There is so much fun to be had! I take my little girls adventuring all year-round, and the benefits of this can be seen by all who meet them. It helps to grow their confidence. It helps develop their balance. It helps to make them strong. What parent doesn’t love to watch their children exploring the world around them, examining bugs and flowers, all while soaking up some vitamin D? It’s low vitamin D intake that leads us to catch so many colds, which is why we need to be outdoors year-round to ensure adequate stores come winter.
Wild spaces: Despite being such a small country, we are very lucky to have a few amazing national parks of our own, and plenty of countryside too. My favourite personal haunt in Dartmoor, which is great for hiking, climbing, and wild camping, but we make good use of the local park too, visiting several times a week. If you can’t get to a national park, find your local park and woodland or farm – you may be surprised by what’s available within walking or cycling distance.
Hiking: Children are never too young to start hiking: I took my babies along in slings, and young children build up strength and stamina through short hikes with plenty of breaks. My children are used to walking, so my three-year-old can easily hike a few miles without help. In fact, I’ve noticed that she chooses to walk less in the town we live in – alongside roadsides, but will run and explore happily for miles when we are in the woods. The countryside and nature trails off children a free and safe space to run ahead and roam which they can rarely experience in built-up areas. All of this is free as well of course – all you need to do it get to your local wild space.
Camping: If you have young children then I recommend camping on a site with facilities, but if you have older children I suggest trying wild camping instead (although this is only legal in some parts of the country, so check before you go. Wild camping is legal across Scotland). Pack for all weathers and eventualities, and take an adventurer mindset with you!
Rockpooling: If you pick the right beach you can easily spend a day rockpooling. I recently went ‘extreme rockpooling’ with Wembury Marine Centre and, with help of the marine scientists there, we found over 50 species of sealife in 2 hours! It was an incredible experience, and also a privilege to get up close to so many creatures. Also such a fantastic way to learn about marine conservation and why it’s important – there is a whole ecosystem in the waves. Go and say hello!
Climbing: My children are keen climbers, so I take my 6-year-old to climbing sessions so she can learn the ropes (pun intended!). She adores it and is already applying what she learns on the climbing wall to her footing and balance when out climbing rocks across rivers and climbing trees. Giving children the tools of balance and precision when they are young will help them with many different activities throughout life, both mental and physical
Use your imagination: Earlier this year we stumbled upon a small woodland by accident and found that there were many chunks of dead trees on the ground. We started gathering them up and made ourselves a den! It’s in a spot that I’m sure very few people visit, and has weathered several storms already. I suspect we will be visiting it for many years to come. What childhood is complete without secret den-building in the woods?
Wild time is not just for the summer months. We also go fossil-hunting in Dorset year-round, on beach trips and wild swimming in the summer, and foraging for apples and berries in autumn. These are the moments we all come to cherish, and we simply can’t get enough of them. So what are you waiting for? Get planning your family adventure now - and go wild!"
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