Last night, we ditched the usual bath-and-bed routine and went for an evening walk in the local woods. I was supposed to be going for a run, but, due to a rather strenuous outdoor exercise class the day before (more on that another time), I could barely move. Running was out of the question.
However, one of the reasons I’m so keen to regain a regular running routine is to set an example to my children that exercise (and the outdoors) is just a normal part of everyday life. So, what better way to demonstrate this than all head out together? We’re also taking part in The Wildlife Trusts’ #30DaysWild this month. We actually try to have some wild time every day anyway – ever since I was inspired by the rather amazing film Project Wild Thing over a year ago. OK, so sometimes this ‘wild time’ is merely a 10-minute splash in a puddle at the end of the driveway, but hey, it’s all fresh air, right?
Anyway, yesterday was the perfect opportunity for a wild adventure, so, with the baby in the sling and the toddler in the buggy, we set off.
Our little excursion wasn’t without error. We forgot to put shoes on the toddler. (We didn’t. We put them on him. He took them off. We put them back on again. He took them back off again. We gave up. We put him in the buggy. We forgot to sling the shoes in as well).
But despite that, it was pretty damn great. We strolled, explored dens, balanced along fallen trees and the toddler thought it was hilarious running around in his socks. The baby grizzled a bit and then fell asleep. We made a pact that, once a week, we’re going to do away with the usual and do something fun as a family in the evening instead – something outdoors and exciting for the little ones.
When we got home, the toddler was hyped up, excited and refused to believe us that it was, in fact, time to go to sleep (turns out there’s something to be said for routine, after all). After finally managing to tuck him into bed at 9.30pm we were all shattered. But we’re sticking to our new pact. Because all the best childhood memories are made from exploring that small patch of woodland near to the house, or riding your scooter up and down the road, or slurping icy lemonade in a pub garden as the sun sets. This is adventure for children. Not sitting indoors in front of the TV.
Now, I’m not going to lie. It’s not all woodland walks and puddle splashing and den building and flower planting for us. There is also probably far too much TV. In fact, Andy, Cat and the rest of the CBeebies presenters form an integral part of my daily childcare plan. Because if you’re outnumbered, or you’re trying to make dinner, or you even just want to sit down for two minutes in the day, I’m not sure how you do it without the company of Bing Bunny. And if I’m being completely honest, when I’m feeding the baby while simultaneously making the toddler’s tea while simultaneously trying to figure out what that congealed gloop at the bottom of the fridge is, and I hear a shout of, “Telly off now Mummy, play with me,” a little part of me dies on the inside.
So, as much as I hate to admit it, TV has its place for us. But this is why those everyday moments outside – from a quick jump in a puddle to a full day exploring at the weekends – are so crucial. It’s a balancing act. I’m working on less TV and more wild time. But it’s a work in progress.