As a family, we love nothing more than to be outside in the fresh air.
As a midwife and secondary school teacher respectively, Naomi and Sam Price-Bates from Newport thought they were well prepared for the arrival of little Myla, but 16 months on and parenting continues to provide its little surprises.
Although they admit that they are still getting to grips with their whole ‘life adjustment’, they now feel able to embrace the rewarding moments, while accepting there are lots of things they can’t control. Pressure to bring up the ‘perfect’ child has been replaced with a ‘trial and error’ approach – as well as the realisation that it takes time to get to know your child and your own parenting beliefs.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” says Naomi. “Talk to your partner, other parents, friends and colleagues – anyone! Talking things through always makes things better, whether it’s a ranting session or a proud-mummy chat about new words your toddler can say. Sharing is the best way to support yourself and others.”
I see the huge benefit we all experience from spending a good portion of the day outdoors – Myla tends to sleep a little better, I feel refreshed and energised, and Sam loves to have space around him to clear his head.
Making the most of free green spaces
We are fortunate to live near a huge park with woodland, a lake, pond and fields. These different areas all provide Myla with huge learning opportunities, and we can easily spend a whole morning or afternoon exploring.
She loves to hunt for sticks, throw stones into the water, feed the ducks, run around through the grass, and of course splash in the puddles. Of course, I always keep a close eye on Myla when we’re out and about and especially when she’s near water. At this time of year, it is so incredibly muddy- but that doesn’t stop us. Myla has a waterproof all-in-one suit that is perfect for those muddy days when all she wants to do is slide around in it and splash in muddy water. After we wash our hands, we often also need to strip our clothes off as soon as we get through the door and put them all straight into the wash to spare our carpets.
Being outdoors is a sensory experience for toddlers, and we try to show her different things she can feel or smell. She loves to scratch the bark on trees, smell flowers and pick up conkers, stones, acorns and leaves for me to keep “very safe” in my pocket. Myla also enjoys spotting wildlife, and we can sometimes spend a whole ten minutes following a beetle or chasing a bird!
Physical and mental wellbeing
I found that getting outside during the early months after having Myla was really good for my general wellbeing. I felt a sense of achievement in getting myself and Myla ready to head out, even if it was just around the corner. I would often put her in her sling and walk for hours at a time, before heading to the tea rooms for a cup of coffee and a cake. The great thing about enjoying time outside is that it can be totally free, and most cities and towns have parks full of parents and their children enjoying time away from the house. I’ve made lifelong friends by organising weekly walks around the park- there is something about a good stomp and natter that really connects people whilst the babies sleep, and/or scream!
Of course, there are huge physical benefits to allowing your child to run around and explore outdoors. I’m sure I burnt calories walking with Myla in her sling and burn many more now carrying her on my shoulders when her legs are too tired to walk home! I think encouraging small children to enjoy being outdoors, whatever the weather, paves the way to developing healthy habits in terms of physical exercise. A bit of rain never hurt anyone, and one of my favourite things to do with Myla on a miserable day is to get wrapped up warm and have 30 minutes in the fresh air, even if it’s drizzly outside. Myla enjoys shouting “rain!” whenever she feels it dripping on her hood.
Inspiring crafty activities
Spending time outdoors also gives us ideas for interesting indoor activities, when I need to do chores around the house. We collected leaves in the autumn and made a leaf garland to hang in our living room. I’m sure future walks will result in me having jars of weeds around the house later this year! We are really looking forward to the warmer weather giving us more opportunity to get out and even have our tea outdoors in the evening – roll on spring!