We caught up with the lovely Lauren of Dilan And Me, blogger and Mama to Dilan aged 4.
Based in Norfolk, Lauren believes in letting kids be kids (and that fresh air and salt water can cure anything!). She gave us a lot of great ideas that can help you get your children spend more time outdoors.
1) For those who are new to your blog how would you describe yourself in a few sentences?I am a mother, blogger and professional procrastinator. My focus in life is having fun, finding joy in the little things and raising good people. I believe in being kind always, adventuring often and that fresh air and salt water can cure anything.
2) Can you tell us a bit about how you started the blog and what you write about?My blog was really an extension of my Instagram account originally. A few years ago I was a single mum and felt like I had hit rock bottom, and I shared my thoughts and feelings on Instagram. As my captions got longer and longer I realised I needed somewhere else to write it all down – firstly because it was so cathartic for me, and secondly because my words really seemed to resonate with and comfort others. Since then I have written about finding love again as a mother, baby loss, gentle/respectful parenting and lots about food allergies. My little boy Dilan has Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy and I gave up his allergens to continue to breastfeed him, and now I support other mums who are doing the same.
3) What were your favourite outdoor activities as a child?My parents still have a very, very well loved outdoor kitchen that I played with for hours and hours. It was everything from my restaurant kitchen, to a place to play house, and even a hotel for my snails! I love open ended play, and toys that can be used in lots of different ways.
4) How much time do you spend outdoors with your children in a typical week?Dilan spends most of his week outside because he attends a forest school which is 100% outdoor – no inside space at all! He’s doing his reception year there and currently goes three days a week, including a heath day which he spends exploring a space nearby while practicing yoga, peer massage and mindfulness – absolute heaven! Outside of school we enjoy walking through the countryside, local woodland or heading to the beach! We are lucky to be surrounded by beautiful coastline here in Norfolk so we like to make the most of it, especially in the colder months because it’s much quieter. As an allergy parent outside activities always appealed to me much more than indoor things like soft play and baby groups did, as they were more likely to be full of Wotsit crumbs and chocolatey hands.
5) What are some of your children’s favourite outdoor activities?Dil loves all the usual stuff like bike riding, playing catch or football and visiting the park. He also enjoys climbing trees, playing hide and seek, flying his kite and hunting for treasure. He’s really interested in animals too so we often check for any new visitors in our bug hotel in the garden, look out for birds of prey or try to spot deer or hedgehogs in the woods. Throughout the year we enjoy visiting local farms and PYO fields – for berries in the summer and pumpkins in the autumn. In the rainier months we like to find the biggest puddles we can to splash in, or to visit the beach while it’s mostly deserted. Here in Norfolk we can visit the seals around this time of year too, who come onto the beach to give birth to their young.
6) How do you make time for outdoor activities with school and work in full swing?
7) How do you encourage your little ones to spend more time outdoors? Could you give us a few tips and tricks?There are days when the pull of the TV is strong and Dil would rather stay in, but generally he’s the one pulling me out the door. We do indulge in a lazy inside day sometimes, but usually by the afternoon we are both itching to get out and do something. The possibility of spotting some wildlife, gathering some treasure (currently usually conkers and ‘fairy hats’ or special sea shells), or finding a swing is far too exciting to miss. If he is feeling a bit tired or fed up we try to make everything into a game. He’s just turning 5 so very much in a competitive phase – so making anything into some kind of race usually works. Sometimes we’ll race through the trees, or we’ll see who can spot something the fastest, or collect the most sticks or leaves which we usually take home and sometimes do crafts with. We’ve been talking a lot about plastic and rubbish lately, and the impact it has on our environment, so sometimes we’ll take a walk to collect litter to keep the local wildlife safe.
8) Why do you think being outdoors is important for children?I think being outdoors is important for all of us, but especially for children because it creates a passion that will hopefully last them their whole lifetime. I hope that Dil looks back on his childhood and remembers all the adventuring and exploring we’ve done fondly, and passes that passion on to someone else. There are so many opportunities to learn outside too; from counting trees, learning about plants and animals, talking about the sky and the wind or the rain. We play Eye Spy for hours practicing phonics as we go, or talk about colours, seasons, and all kinds of other things. Lots of children, and especially Dilan, learn better when they are physically moving around, and he engages in conversation more than if we were sat at a table or on the couch. Splashing in puddles and rolling around in the mud are brilliant sensory experiences (and more importantly such great fun), and breathing in fresh air and running through a field or two is great for both your physical and mental health. I believe that children are built to be messy, wild and free, and being outside as much as possible allows them to embrace that.
9) How do you kit your children out for outdoor play?Dil’s forest school has a motto that we’ve adopted as our own – ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. Pre children you never would’ve caught me wearing wellies and walking through a muddy field, but nowadays I’ve learnt to embrace it! During this time of year for forest school Dil wears plenty of warm layers starting with soft wool thermals, then a fleece pullover and warm waterproof outer layers. We love the Muddy Puddles Tootsa Blizzard Winter Jacket because it’s warm and fully waterproof – and Dil loves the built in wrist warmers. For the really cold days he wears extra socks on his feet, plus gloves, a neck warmer and warm hat. In the warmer months he wears thin layers to keep him protected from the sun, and waterproof trousers to keep him dry while he’s engaging in water play. On days out you’ll find my car loaded with everything we might need – wellies and boots for us both, extra layers and waterproofs, coats and blankets for wrapping up in on the drive home. Plus of course an empty bag for all the wet and muddy stuff!
10) What advice do you have for urban families who want to spend more time outdoors?I’d say just do it! Start right now. Go for a walk, visit a park, find a local woodland or nature reserve, or pack a picnic and drive to your nearest beach. Take a ball, a kite or a basket to fill with treasure and just enjoy it. Make sure you’ve got plenty of layers on if it’s chilly, or sun protection if it’s hot. Take a bottle of water or a flask of hot chocolate along too, and a carrier or sling for any young ones whose legs might get tired. Chat about what you see and what you find along the way, and follow your children’s interests. Later on when you get home with tired legs and rosy cheeks you’ll see the sparkle in their eye as they talk about their day and you’ll know it was worth the effort. Plus fingers crossed you’ve worn them out and they’ll sleep all night!
Photo credit: http://mradamrobertson.com/To find out more about Lauren, visit her blog or follow her on Instagram.