|Walking to the hollow tree.
Going for a walk is free, healthy and hopefully fun. When the boys were little I read various bits of advice about encouraging them to be good walkers. Not in the sense of learning how to walk, but in terms of enjoying going for a walk and having the stamina to do it without lots of whinging or needing to be carried. I learned that with small children there is no point walking simply to reach a destination, you have to enjoy the walk itself. Not that there's anything wrong with having somewhere to aim for- knowing you get to feed a horse, or paddle in a stream, or see a tractor when you get where you're going, is a great motivator. However resisting the temptation to drag them on a route march, and being relaxed enough to go at their speed and appreciate all the millions of little things that catch their attention along the way, definitely makes it a more pleasurable experience for everyone. We quite regularly took the best part of half an hour to get to the end of our road (less than 200m). We had to:
1. Look down every drain to see if there was anything in there, and probably poke a stick or drop a stone in for good measure.
|Inspecting a digger.
3. Check out the state of the chestnut tree in case it had conkers.
4. Balance along the kerb where the pavement ends.
5. Inspect any creatures we might find along the way.
6. Pick up pretty much anything that happened to be lying on the pavement or in the gutter (Danny has a vast collection of hair bands, clips and bobbles that he's amassed over time!)
Plus, if we were lucky we would encounter someone doing something interesting- someone from the council mowing or hedge-trimming, someone washing their car, the road sweeping machine going by, builders putting up scaffolding; and on a really good day, the drain blasters or roadwork men. The boys were always very happy to interrogate any unsuspecting workman about what exactly it was they were doing and WHY? And already, the walk had become an adventure, without actually getting out of sight of the back gate.
|Sliding into the leaf-filled hole.
|Combine-spotting in summer.
As well as getting an understanding of the changing seasons, children can pick up all sorts of knowledge about nature from a walk in the countryside. Looking for acorns, fircones or conkers as well as comparing different leaf shapes helps them learn how to identify some of our native trees. Watching birds and describing their colour or size, and talking about the way they fly or the sound they make, helps children to recognise the more familiar ones for themselves. The boys are pretty reliable about knowing a sparrow from a swallow, a rook from a robin etc. They know the swallows make their nests out of mud in the roof of our end shed, and that rooks make big, messy stick nests. They know the call of a pigeon or the scream of swifts as they zoom overhead.
They can also name quite a few of the wildflowers and plants we encounter and are well able to look out for stingers and to find a doc leaf (or doctor leaf as Danny calls them) if they get too close.
Blowing dandelion clocks to tell the time or throwing sycamore seeds to see them spinning like helicopters is a fun way to show how some plants can spread their seeds on the wind; whilst throwing goose-grass or sticky burrs at each other so they latch on to your clothes shows a different way they might spread.
So if you're stuck for something to do and want to get them out of the house without spending any cash, wrap up and go for a wander about- who knows what you might find!