Hi, my name is Angela Mcgeady and I am the Outdoor Lead for Growing Places. I am lucky to be able to share my passion of the outdoors with the staff and children in our nurseries, after school and holiday clubs. I also give families the opportunity to spend time outside with their children on family camping weekends
Who remembers spending the day playing in the woods, in the rivers, streams, mud and meadows? Who remembers there being a lack of adults involved in your play, the younger siblings you had to look after, the apples that you picked fresh from the tree and ate for a snack? The long walk home wet and muddy and the greeting from your mum when you arrived home. The feeling of freedom, excitement of spending time with friends and achievement, maybe from the den you built or the tree you climbed.
I was very lucky to be a child in an age when you could play outside with your friends without any fear or worry apart from maybe a clip around the ear from a Policeman if you were up to no good. I could spend my weekends in the woods, exploring the tracks, streams, banks, making rope swings and dens. My friends and I used to make up games and challenges and would always end up wet, dirty, hungry, and exhausted. I learnt DIY and mechanic skills from my dad, decorating and money management from my mum and our family holidays every year were spent in Devon or Cornwall in a tent. I did chores for pocket money and learnt to wait for things I wanted until Birthdays or Christmas.
Did you know??
According to a report in the Guardian in 2018 three quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates revealing the extent to which time playing in parks, wood and fields has shrunk. A fifth of the children did not play outside at all on an average day. Experts warn that active play is essential to the health and development of children, but that parents’ fears, lack of green spaces and the lure of digital technology is leading youngsters to lead an isolated existence and a break down of social gatherings and family time. It was also frightening to learn that one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest or beach or any other natural environment for at least a year if at all.
Mark Sears from The Wild Network says” we are stifling their ability to be free, to be at their best as children and it is having significant impacts” He said” increasing obesity and lower mental well being in children was linked to a lack of physical activity”.
I am very lucky to do the job I do; it is not often that a passion you have can become a full-time career and one that you can see has a positive impact on so many lives. I am lucky enough to relive my childhood every day giving the children we look after experiences that I hope they will cherish and pass on to their children and giving the staff the chance to work with children in an outdoor environment, learn new skills and possibly discover a new hobby and if I am very lucky become passionate about the opportunities outdoor learning can provide and a want to develop their own knowledge and understanding more. If children are given the time and space to experience for themselves the wonders of the natural world, the seasons and how the world changes with time, what it feels like to be out in the rain, to hear the wind in the trees and feel it on their faces. To be
can navigate streams and steep banks, to climb trees and build dens. To jump in muddy puddles or sit in muddy riverbeds. If they can feel free and relaxed and not bound by walls and physical boundaries or deafened by the sound of many children and adults in a small space, they will flourish. Children with SEN or who struggle with managing their emotions and behaviour find the outdoors a calming and nurturing environment and can function at their own pace and are far more receptive to learning and adult support. All the areas that, according to the Early Years Foundation Stage state should be developed can be in the great outdoors, a child’s development of both body and mind can be easily fulfilled by just letting them be.
At Growing Places we are passionate about the benefits that being outside has on children and staff, we realise that giving the children the opportunity to explore and lead their own play and investigations develops social, caring, resilient and knowledgeable children. It creates a sense of understanding of the world and where they fit in their community but also a responsibility to look after it.
Whilst we give every child the opportunity to explore outdoors, we run a project specifically to support children who are identified as having trouble managing their emotions or behaviour, SEN children or those who need their learning extending. We have found that there is a high percentage of children needing extra support with Speech and Language and Confidence, this is, we believe due to the increased use of digital technology and families whose parents are both working and extremely busy family lives. The ONE project allows these children to be in small groups with an adult who has the time to have conversations and listen carefully, where the only distraction maybe the discovery of a mushroom growing or a fallen tree to climb.
If we do not teach our children to have a love of the outdoors, nature, and all it has to offer and to feel so passionately about it they want to care for, nurture it and understand it, who will protect our forests, parks, and other green spaces?
I hope you have enjoyed this blog, look out for the next one about Little Acorns, unstructured play on a large scale and mud!!!!!