My love for the outdoors is all-consuming and ever-growing. Being outside in nature, ideally in a spot where cars and people cannot be heard, is what makes me happiest. Nothing else compares to that feeling of *freedom* that simply cannot be replicated when indoors (especially if you, like me, live in London or another city). This is why being outdoors makes me feel good: there are less boundaries and the opportunities seem endless. As long as you respect the Nature around you, and the strength she possesses, spontaneity and instinct take up the driving seat. You never quite know what you will find when you’re in Nature – and therein lies the magic…
Since becoming a parent (our little boy Jack is approaching two and we have another one on the way, due at the end of May), spending time outdoors has become even more precious to me. On a personal level, there is nothing I love more than watching Jack play in nature, and see him amuse himself with sticks, stones and mud, exploring all the elements before being plonked in a bubble bath at the end of the day. He hasn’t yet fully experienced snow and I am so excited to see his reaction, and watch him grimace at the cold of it (or more likely, cackle with glee). I can’t wait to watch him build his first fire, swim in the sea (so far he loves nothing more than running into the waves) or pick his first wild flower. Outdoors is such a natural environment for children which is why I hope to send him to Forest pre-school when he is old enough where the curriculum centres around outdoor play and learning through hands on experience with the natural world. Mathematics skills taught through counting stones? Yes please!
But it extends beyond just my fondness for seeing Jack play in the mud and capture cute photos for Instagram. In the wider UK population, there is a real breakdown of connection between children and the outdoors, which is having serious implications. Just last month, the Guardian newspaper revealed a survey showing that three -quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Another government report earlier in the year found that one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. This shows the extent to which time spent playing outdoors has shrunk and is actually quite shocking especially when you consider that increasing obesity and lower mental wellbeing in children is being linked to lack of physical activity (Source: Mark Sears, The Wild Network).
We know that the pervasiveness of technology in our lives has caused much of this, which leads me on to another reason why the outdoors is so crucial. Another poll, led by Persil, as part of their amazing #dirtisgood campaign, found that children spent twice as long playing on screens as playing outside. We cannot stop technology playing such a major role in our lives, and of course it has many advantages but the need to counteract screen time with being outdoors is even more pressing. We need to ensure that we spend time away from screens and get some fresh air into our minds and bodies. With so much digital technology at our fingertips, we NEED the outdoors more than ever.
Finally, Nature affords not just parents – although it has become a huge crutch for me – but any person who might be feeling a little fragile a means to breathe new life into a situation and potentially improve their mental and emotional health. So many days I have woken feeling low and exhausted after a poor night’s sleep and sought solace outdoors in the woods by our house. Things tend to fall into perspective when you realize how small we – and our problems – really are, and Nature can shake us back to this reality in the kindest, most beautiful way. We travel as a family extensively and one day I’d love to visit the redwoods in California, the tallest trees in the world at around 300 feet tall, and just stand beside one. I cannot imagine how intense and calming that must feel.
There is a growing gap between us all and nature as our lives become increasingly enclosed. And yet we know the importance and beauty of the outdoors. To quote the MP Liz Truss, let’s get back to “climbing trees, not walls.” Emma xx