On Thursday afternoon we got together with a few friends to enjoy our first Adventure Bugs outdoor playgroup session at the Cwm Clydach RSPB reserve in Swansea. Myself and another local business mum had the idea of joining forces some months ago, at one of our local networking meetings. As a pharmacist, I am intensely aware of the health problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle and alarmed that the increased prescribing of medication for ADHD in recent years has been linked to the lack of outdoor play. Following from my recent Forest Schools course, I was itching to do something about it!
When I told Helen about my ideas, her eyes lit up – as a Science teacher herself she was keen to help children connect with nature and wanted to get involved. And so, we put our heads together!
First we did an assessment of the area we planned to use, by taking our own children for a walk, playing pooh sticks and skimming pebbles in the stream. Despite the big difference in age of our children (mine are 11 and 15 and hers 3 and 6) they all enjoyed and were keen to meet again.
This week we invited two friends with their children, so we could try out some ideas and get feedback and, wow ….. we had a ball! I bought a pack of tarpaulin sheets so we could sit by the stream and get creative.
We started by collecting small fallen branches to make rafts as we made our way to the stream and to tie them together we used long grass which we wove around the branches in any way we could – as long as they held together we were happy! By this time, some of the children we already splashing in the stream in their wellies. It had started raining, but no-one minded. Each of them had a raft to float and they watched with joy as they bobbed in the water!
I had brought along a pack of white chalk as I thought it would be a good idea for the children to draw on pebbles. Some children washed pebbles in the stream, and we tried brushing some clean so there was a mix of wet and dry pebbles to chalk on. There was plenty of chatter as their creations appeared – faces, stick men, the gym, Monsters University characters, a house, a bird, a tree, a car, a bike …… their imaginations ran wild. We encouraged them to put together a story with the pebbles.
Soon the tarpaulin was covered with our collection of rafts and pebble art ….
We had planned to read a story, so the tarpaulin was cleared and opened out so we could all sit down to listen. Helen read us the story about an Ash tree as we used our hands to sway like trees and pitter patter like rain. We chatted about animals and insects which live in trees, learnt what a fork in a tree looked like and discussed what we thought “rotten” was.
We had such lovely feedback that we cannot wait to go along again next week. The older children will be back at school, so we will invite a few new pre-schoolers and see how that works. This is a completely new experience for all of us, and although Helen and I have lots of ideas we want to try out, we would love to hear from others who run similar group activities. Your feedback and comments would be greatly appreciated.