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the great outdoors --- how to help your children discover its magic


By Caro Webster
The outdoors is where imagination and discovery collide in the most spectacular fashion. Mother Nature’s secrets are just begging to be discovered and what’s more, she is a brilliant, patient teacher and your child a willing student. Everything about outdoors is pure magic.Sadly today, however, a variety of factors conspire against children spending unstructured time outdoors, with the result that they are leading more sedentary lives than ever.

This is such a shame as the senses of our children come into their own when they step outside the front door.
Whether it’s picking and eating a tomato straight off the plant, smelling the pavement after a downpour, feeling the touch of summer’s sun on their back, watching a caterpillar inch its way along a leaf or listening to the wail of a distant siren, each one has its own place in developing an understanding of and lasting love of the outdoors. There is so much for our children to learn by simply observing the world.

As parents, we need to ensure that “outdoors” plays a major role in our children’s lives and further, that this interaction begins when they are very young. If children don’t have access to the outdoors before about 10 years of age, it will mean nothing to them and indeed they may even develop a fear of the being there. Given our children are the future custodians of our planet, this is very unsettling. So there are many reasons to kick start a legion of young outdoor warriors NOW. Here are few tips to get you and your children on your way:

Five top tips for getting children outside:
1. Entrance them. Help them find magic everywhere. There are fairies, trolls, dragons and pixies to be found if you know where to look! Use natural resources in imaginative play. Agapanthus leaves becomes sword, cicadas become brooches, dandelion clusters are just begging to be blown into the air. By making the outdoor experience a magical & fun one, we can lead children to developing their own sustained interest in the practical side of being outdoors
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2. Give them a regular outdoor project. A veggie patch is a great start. Or have them start a nature journal or build a rain gauge using recycled materials.

3. Involve them early in your outdoor chores. Eg weeding, hanging out the washing, washing the dog, pruning, watering the garden etc. Make it fun!

4. Take their indoor activities outside – lego, handheld computer games, books, colouring in – all can be undertaken with ease outside.

5. Encourage them to be as wild as they want. Let them learn that outside is their special place - a place where they can dance, sing and yell their little lungs out with little or no adult interference.

6. Visit a nursery, botanic garden or regional park

7. Eat outside whenever weather permits. An outdoor picnic or barbecue never fails to thrill my children. Whether it’s a full scale production or a simple lunch on the grass in the front garden, they always love sharing their meal in outdoors.
8. Practice what you preach. Lead by example and get outside!

Caro Webster is the author of Small Fry Outdoors – inspiration for being outdoors with kids, a freelance writer and fanatical gardener.
She is a passionate believer in the magic of outdoors & encouraging lots of unstructured play for children.
She has worked in a variety of industries but says writing and being a full time Mum to two outdoor warriors suits her best. She is also President of the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia. You can buy Caro’s book online at www.smallfryfun.com or http://shop.abc.net.au/ Twitter Caro at @salisburydowns or drop her a line at
http://salisburydowns.wordpress.com/ 


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