“Mummy, how does a bee carry pollen,” my son asked on a recent holiday to Dorset, “when he doesn’t have a pot?”
We were rambling up a steep coastal path at the time, in the sunshine, past swaying grass and gorse. We’d just seen a bee bumbling past and had been telling him how these stripy little creatures make the honey that ends up on his crumpets in the morning.
I love his questions. More than that, I love the pause before his questions. I love watching his brow furrow, knowing his brain is building pathways and connections; unravelling facts we have told him; making sense of the world before his eyes. I love the fact he has no inhibitions; he does not worry about asking something ‘silly’. Nothing is silly. I love the fact he is learning without realising it.
Nature does that for children. It inspires creativity and understanding.
We have recently returned from a week’s holiday to Dorset. We have been barefoot on beaches and forest footpaths. The amount of time we spent outside practically qualified us as free range. We were a free-range family and our children ran feral.
It was wonderful.
I’m a huge believer in the power of the outdoors. For me, a trail run along rutted woodland paths, jumping tree roots and skirting fallen branches, beats a jog along the nearby A road any day of the week. Nature is a teacher; a healer. From woodland floors to wide oceans, it is an eye-opener. It is comforting. It is surprising. It is there to be explored.
And you know what’s really great? We’re part of it.
It’s so easy to feel disconnected, on those days when you’re sat inside the house; in an office; in front of a laptop; watching the telly.
It’s so easy to reconnect in mere moments, with a stroll in a green space; a walk through the woods; five minutes sat on the grass in the garden.
The more time we spent outside during our week’s holiday, the more certain I became of several things:
All children should know the feel of sand between their toes…
All children should know the taste of dirt…
All children should be trusted to climb and explore…
It’s good for them. It’s in their nature. It’s a remedy for tantrums.
OK, OK, it’s not always a remedy for tantrums. Tiredness happens, whether you’re inside or out.
But you get the gist. Mud should be embraced. They only get one childhood. Let’s encourage them to run wild.