If you have happy memories of a childhood spent climbing trees and riding bikes, why not take the opportunity to relive them with your grandchild? Exploring outside together will help you to bond and build a strong relationship.
The great outdoors – it really is great
With more technical gadgets, fewer green spaces and fears about safety, it’s easy to believe that today’s children spend less time playing outdoors as their parents did – less than half the time, according to the National Trust. And yet, the same study revealed that 84% of parents believe that playing outdoors makes children more imaginative and creative.
Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children, agrees that there are many positives to getting outside. “Outdoor adventures are great for getting physically active, and have been shown to reduce mental fatigue and stress. You get a good dose of fresh air and vitamin D too, so it’s an all-round health boost,” she says. “Spending time outside with your grandchild makes them feel loved and gives them a brilliant role model.”
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Ready, set… explore!
Need some ideas to get you started? Follow these basic rules:
Play to your grandchild’s interests
If your grandchild likes arts and crafts, collect some natural materials to make a collage. If they would rather play games on a device, try finding apps that get them outside, such as Geocaching or Pokemon Go, to make it more interactive.
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Play to your own interests
If you enjoy a certain activity, such as fishing, gardening or camping, it’s likely that your enthusiasm will show and rub off on your grandchild! Get them involved by asking them where they’d like to go fishing or camping, or what they would like to grow.
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Explore something new together
Both write down five ideas of things you’d like to do and then each pick one idea from the other’s list to try out.
Do your research
There are lots of exciting ideas online to help get you into the mood for an outdoor adventure – and they don’t have to be complicated or cost money. The National Trusts’ 50 Things To Do Before 11 3/4 includes skimming stones, building a den, damming a stream and star gazing and encourages children to tick off each of the 50 things as they do them. If you enjoy the woods, try the Woodland Trust’s activity sheets – with leaf rubbing, fairy tea parties and minibeast hunts, there’s something to appeal to everyone.
Think back to your own childhood and the hours spent making fun out of the natural resources around you; now encourage this kind of free thinking in your grandchildren. For example, how many uses can you find together for a stick (a sword, a bat, a flag mast) or a stone (use it to skim, paint on, make jewellery)?
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“Children enjoy a bit of risk – they find it thrilling and exciting, and it also allows them to explore what they can do and learn to assess risks themselves,” says Anna Taylor of Fundamentally Children. “This usually results in a few bumps along the way, but remember that this is an important part of childhood.”
However, you will need to balance the risks with the benefits, so your grandchild doesn’t get seriously hurt. Anna advises the following strategies to approach risky play with a positive attitude (Sandseter, 2009b):
- Allow risky play but keep it constrained. For example, let them climb a tree but ask them to stay at a safe height.
- Keep a close eye on the child so that you can assist if needed, while giving them the opportunity to freely explore.
- Where possible, take part in the activity and encourage the child to challenge themselves, e.g. going higher on a swing.
Visit our grandparenting section for more great ideas for entertaining grandchildren