In the woods of North East Scotland you may find a wee surprise. Several days a week, Mandy Tulloch, founder of Mud Pies organises family woodland sessions for 2-5yr olds and their parents and carers. These woods echo with the sound of children playing!
This week I joined a Mud Pie session for some fun in the forest. 15 children and their parents and carers met in the car park. After a brief word of welcome, the session began by looking for some hidden friends tucked away. The children quickly found the soft toys.
Then the walk began. The pace was pleasantly slow so that children could stop to examine anything that took their interest. Muddy puddles were particularly fascinating!
A fallen down log provided a challenge to walk along. Luckily someone was always around to hold a hand.
Soon we arrived at the big shelter. Mandy had this set up in advance, with portable seating and snacks ready.
Using the bracken and other material collected on the way, the children made camouflage nets for the game of hide-n-seek to follow.
The children wrapped their homemade camouflage nets around themselves and found places to hide.
These dens were made by older children during a ranger led activity several weeks earlier. Some children found that a tree was big enough to hide behind.
After all this, the children enjoyed exploring and playing in the woods.
The sessions last 90 minutes. As well an opportunity to meet up, many parents enjoyed the time as it gave them ideas for playing outdoors with their children. But there was general agreement that there was something special about getting together for an activity.
There is a growing world-wide movement to encourage families to explore local natural spaces and ensure their children spend time exploring and discovering nature. Have a look at the Children and Nature Network site which contains activities and ideas for families in the form of a downloadable toolkit. Some families are getting together to form outdoor playgroups. The Canadian Active Kids Club website gives some good advice for getting one started.