For the first time EVER, our little family spent the Christmas & New Year period on holiday.
It was amazing for us all to be together, spending a full 10 days just relaxing and enjoying our surroundings. After a busy year, it was a much-needed and well-deserved break. Those regular visitors to my little blogette will know that we love to go to Coombe Mill, in Cornwall. The tranquillity and the closeness to the natural outdoors appeals to us, and it made a great setting for us to enjoy Christmas even more.
The most memorable experience, however, was the day of New Years Eve. We decided to spend the day surfing in the sea at beautiful Polzeath Beach. Bonkers, I hear you mutter, given the time of year but, with the proper kit, we hardly noticed the cold and lasted over an hour in the surf, jumping and riding the waves.
We went to a surf shop located right on the beach, where we were able to hire a board, wetsuits, boots, gloves and hats, all of which were much needed in the chilly swell. We used the “privacy” of our car to writhe and wriggle into our wetsuits, and then we were ready to face the waves.
The first few steps into the ocean we sort-of OK, and surprisly not as cold as we anticipated it to be. Having the correct kit is essential, and I was able to slowly lower myself deeper into the water without too much of a cold-shock to the system, acclimatising as I went tentatively ever farther out into the surf.
My daughter caught her first wave and soon stood up straight away, making it look very easy and completely putting her Mum to shame! I don’t mind admitting that I’m not the best surfer, and I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been able to successfully stand up on a moving board, but I still love the whole experience.
After almost an hour, the wind started to chill our heads, and cheeks began to glow a nice shade of rosy red. We were ready for warm clothes and, as we waddled quickly back to the car, we all agreed that we should visit the nearest tea-rooms, where we enjoyed a steaming pot of tea, and a huge warm scone with extra clotted cream and large spoon of jam!
The ability to enjoy such a wild, fun day with my family was such a brilliant way to end the year and mark the end of a wonderful holiday.
At the moment, I’m providing a lovely Family Engagement project at two local primary schools in Cardiff. The aim of the project is to encourage parents and children to come together after school, and have an opportunity to play and be creative together.
We’ve a had a few weeks together now and, as I get to know the group, I always like the idea of introducing a fire-building activity. It’s a great way of teaching the children about fire safety and the correct way of working with fire. It also shows the parents that a little bit of risk is a good thing and, actually, children are really good at recognizing and managing risk during play.
My fire-building activity is run over two sessions, the first being an introduction to fire. We talk about risks, how to use fire and be around fire safely. We look at the equipment and talk about how we use it, and this gives me an idea on how the children react around the subject. It’s good for me to know that I can trust the group; if I am in any doubt about safety issues, I’ll leave the actual fire building session to a later date or, with some groups, perhaps fires may not the best or safest activity for them.
So, sitting in the classroom, we spoke about using a flint and steel to get the fire going. I demonstrate the process and, at the start, you do see the fear in some children’s eyes, as they’ve been told to never play with fire because it’s dangerous. Of course, it is when used in the wrong way, but with correct teaching comes respect, and it stops becoming the scary forbidden thing that children are often warned about.
We then move outside to the open playground. Here, the children make a little table of sticks and a ball of cotton wool is placed on top. The children then get to have a go at lighting the cotton wool in a safe and controlled environment. We always have a bowl of water at the side, (just in case), and the children take it in turns to strike the spark, so that they learn to wait and to observe the rules of our fire session.
Luckily, I’ve never had any child go out of control, or act dangerously with this activity. They really understand how to behave around the fire, and always use the equipment correctly. It’s lovely to watch and to be a part of this discovery process.
I believe that, sadly, in the society that we currently live in, we can wrap our children up in cotton wool in an attempt to shield them from too many potential hazards and risks. Many of these things were simply play experiences to me and my peers and, as children we were allowed to explore, discover and evaluate the safest way to avoid risks in play.
The current trend seems to almost promote “safe, indoor, computerised” activities, by telling children not to climb the tree in case you fall and break your leg, don’t play outside when its rainy because you’ll get a cold, and don’t jump in the puddle as you’ll ruin your shoes. As parents, I think we’ve all said these things to our children at some time or another, but didn’t we do all of these things when we were kids, and didn’t love it.
I think that a little bit of risky play works well in a safe environment and the children know that if they act responsibly, behave well and enjoy the session, the following week they get to enjoy a huge mug of hot chocolate and toast marshmallows on the fire that they helped to make!
This a little different from the normal outdoor story this week, but it’s something I would love to share.
I picked up my daughter from school on Monday and, as I waited in the playground, I saw my daughter’s teacher heading over to speak to me. My first thought was “What am I going to roped into now?” But, she told me something that made me feel so happy and proud as a parent.
She explained that, on a Monday morning, the class has ‘My Time’. This is where the children in the class take it in turns to tell the rest of the class what they got up to on the weekend.
The teacher then explained how she really looks forward to hearing my daughter’s adventures each week. About how we go exploring forests, visiting beaches and hunting for fossils, collecting driftwood for art projects at home, throwing on waterproofs and getting down and dirty in the mud, also summers spent gorge walking or surfing and how she just loves listening to my daughter’s excitement at sharing these stories with her friends.
She told me how good it was to hear of a family that makes an effort, and that the quality time that we spend together really shows through, as my daughter was so interested in learning about new things and discovering new and exciting things.
To say I walked out of the playground with a big smile on my face was an understatement. It was lovely to hear and, as a parent, I guess we always tend to doubt ourselves. So, for someone to say “You’re doing a great job” was fantastic.
To all of us; the families who share our outdoor stories and adventures, those who spend quality time with our children, (even if we think we’re just going outside to play), and all those who value a “blow-through” just to feel alive, you should know that other people notice and realise the positiveness in these simple adventures, and you should take heart that, as parents, we’re doing a good job!