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10 Fun Summer Outdoor Activities for Kids – with TV’s Helen Skelton

outdoor time family

The presenter and mum-of-two teams up with outdoor experts to suggest natural ways to keep children entertained outside over the summer.

After months out of school during lockdown, children and their weary parents are now faced with yet more time to fill during the holidays.

To help inspire them, The Wild Network has teamed up with TV presenter Helen Skelton and Smart Energy GB to suggest 42 sustainable things to do over the summer.

“I’ve got two young boys, who have been home pretty much the whole time during lockdown,” says Skelton of her sons, Ernie, five, and Louis, three. “They’re wide awake at 6am and full of energy all day.”

The Countryfile presenter and former Blue Peter host continues: “The boys love being outside – whether that’s in the garden, local park or woodland. They love foraging, climbing trees and creating seed bombs. If they’re running around all day, I’m hoping they’ll sleep all night!”

In addition, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has also compiled a series of activities for children to enjoy over the summer, and Guy Barter, RHS chief horticultural advisor, says: “Getting outside and sparking excitement around plants and bugs is the best way to inspire a love of nature, which is hugely beneficial to children’s health and wellbeing.

“Being outdoors makes us feel free, and gardening and connecting with nature is a very mindful task that can be just as rewarding for parents as it is for children.”

Here are 10 outdoor activity suggestions from the RHS and The Wild Network…

outdoor time family

1. Make a seed bomb

The Wild Network suggests children will have fun mixing daisy seeds with peat-free compost and water, and rolling the mixture into a ball. Let the balls dry and throw the resulting ‘seed bombs’ into the garden, or perhaps the park. Make sure you know where the bomb landed, so you’ll be able to see if daisies grow there in the spring.

2. Create a temporary dam

If you live near a stream, The Wild Network suggests making your own temporary dam with twigs, branches and stones to stop the flow of water. But it’s important to remove the dam straight afterwards, or the stream could flood.

outdoor time family

3. Go foraging for blackberries

Blackberries are in abundance at this time of year, says the RHS, growing wild in hedgerows from now until October. Take a bag on a country walk and hunt for the darker, sweeter, fruits to bring home. Avoid picking any that are below adult waist level or near busy roads.

4. Collect seeds to plant next spring

Cowslips, primroses, garden primula and other early flowers will be ready to shed seed now, says the RHS. With permission, gather seeds by snipping off seed heads and shaking them over a sheet of paper. Sprinkle the seeds onto a pot or tray filled with firmed potting compost, water, and leave in a sheltered spot, covered so animals can’t disturb them. Next spring look for little seedlings to plant in the garden.

outdoor time family

5. Paint a watercolour with rain

If it looks like it’s about to rain, The Wild Network suggests kids put some sheets of paper outside with drops of watercolour paint on them, and wait and see what picture the rain paints! “Even if it’s raining the boys enjoy being outside, playing in puddles, or creating a painting using drops of watercolour paint and the rain,” says Skelton. “For me, rain doesn’t have to necessarily mean the end of outside play.”

6. Create bug hotels for pollinators

Fill wooden boxes, flowerpots or other containers with pine cones, bamboo canes, straw, bark and logs or wood with holes drilled in them, suggests the RHS. Bees in particular like these ‘hotels’, especially the solitary bees that are among the best flower pollinators. Watch and make a note of which visitors come to stay.

outdoor time family

7. Go on a rainbow scavenger hunt

Both the RHS and The Wild Network suggest that in the garden or on a walk, children should try finding something in nature from every colour of the rainbow, and take photos if possible. The RHS warns children to be respectful to nature by only taking very small samples from plants or by looking for fallen materials, and not to touch anything unusual. The RHS Summer Flower Spotter Guide might help.

8. Make a mini-pond

Sink an old washing up bowl into the ground, fill with water, and add a rock or brick so anything that falls in can crawl out, says the RHS. Put in some waterweed and wait for creatures such as water boatmen and pond skaters to appear. Leave a muddy patch next to the pond so you can see any bird, fox or hedgehog footprints. Birds and insects also need mud for nesting.

outdoor time family

9. Be a street artist

Paint some stones, suggests The Wild Network. There are lots of possibilities – children might want to paint on flower patterns, turn the stones into insects or animals or decorate them with patterns. Hiding them for your friends to find could be fun too.

10. Watch caterpillars transform into butterflies

Moths and butterflies lay eggs in late summer that soon hatch into caterpillars, points out the RHS, which says nasturtiums are particularly attractive to large cabbage white butterflies. Although gardeners aren’t pleased when these butterflies infest cabbages, children can raise the caterpillars in a plastic box with a lid that lets in air, feeding them on cabbage leaves until they form a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, in a process called metamorphosis.

Visit The Wild Network (thewildnetwork.com/inspiration/2020/7/20/42-days-of-summer) to find the 42 Days of Summer checklist.

Helen Skelton has teamed up with Smart Energy GB to encourage families to get a smart meter installed to help manage household energy consumption.

3 Ways to Help your Child Feel More Calm

Claire Spreadbury asks experts for advice during this tense time.

Whether they’re struggling with schoolwork, battling with friendships or feeling the highs and lows of our current situation, being a kid is never easy.

So, what can parents do to help instil a sense of calm? There are activities you can introduce now to help give children skills they can turn to in tough times.

Here are three worth giving a go…

1. Start writing a journal

Taking time out of each day to write in a journal is a great habit. It can make kids more thankful for the good stuff and act as a release if they write down anything that’s worrying them.

Mum-of-two Francesca Geens started the HappySelf Journal (£23/E26.31, Notonthehighstreet, notonthehighstreet.com) after reading daily reports about how some kids are growing up stressed. “I really wanted to do something to help children develop healthy habits as they grow up in this increasingly busy and switched-on world.”

Geens created a journal aimed at children aged six to 12 and is based on scientifically-proven methods that promote happiness, develop healthy habits for life and nurture enquiring minds. “I designed it because it’s what I wanted my own children to have access to, and couldn’t find anything like it,” she says.

Her kids got involved in the entire process. Geens’ 10-year-old still uses it daily, and her 14-year-old daughter has been helping with the teen edition, coming soon. “We saw the biggest impact with my son – who was able to share worries with us that he hadn’t felt able to talk about previously. And this is something so many parents have shared with me since – that the structure of the journal leads to some lovely conversations at bedtime, leading children to share worries, including bullying, for the first time,” says Geens. “My son started sleeping better, communicating with us more about his feelings and being able to appreciate and identify the positives in his day.”

“We have doubled down on our happiness practices as a family,” adds Geens. “We take our time for journalling and mindfulness, we share our ‘top three things’ at dinner every evening, don’t watch too much news and have clear boundaries for social media and screen time.

“What’s been interesting is that, despite everything that’s going on, we have managed to all keep a positive mindset. We’ve focused on those areas we can control – like looking after ourselves and helping our neighbours. With so much uncertainty and changes to our daily routines, it’s a good time to start journalling. It brings an important structure to the day and allows us a quiet time to reflect and process the day in a positive way.”

2. Exercise for physical and mental health

Some kids love exercise, others are more reluctant. But find the right activity for them and it can really give their mental health a boost, and instil that sense of calm.

“Exercise promotes the release of our internal mood elevators, powerful hormones and neurotransmitters, which – particularly when combined with a little physical fatigue – will have a very calming effect on children,” says fitness expert Laura Williams. “Add in other feel-good factors, such as green space (the evidence for outdoor exercise and mood is extensive), and the fact exercise is likely to be taken with family or friends, and you have a soothing, calming cocktail.”

If your children aren’t so keen on PE With Joe, try an online class where you bust some moves to a chart-topper. Try going on a big bike ride together, or start doing Couch To 5K with them. The sense of achievement often gives us all a boost, and makes kids more up for it the next time.

3. Try meditation or mindfulness

At the beginning and end of each day, Priyanka Lugani, founder of ALMA (almadeli.com), suggests taking your child through heartfulness practice, which can include breathwork, meditation or simply just being still and listening to some calming music. “Ask them to close their eyes and notice what they can hear (birds outside) and feel (the rug underneath).”

If this doesn’t work for your family, try getting creative. “Sensory stimulation with play also activates the stimulation of inner organs, benefiting our children’s minds as well as our bodies,” adds Lugani. “Get messy with arts and crafts and be fully present when doing so. This is also a great way for children to burn off some steam, which will aid their development and ensure they are stimulated enough to unwind at the end of the day.”

McCarthy Holden and COVID-19

Covid response

Our response

As with most of the world at the moment, I think everyone at McCarthy Holden are still in shock at what our lives, both personal and business, have become in a very short space of time.

We are hopeful, we are determined, we are anxious, we are planning, we are cleaning, we are keeping busy and we are trying to proceed with everyone’s best interests in mind.

Our responsibility

McCarthy Holden has a responsibility and duty of care to our staff, our clients and our communities. 

This news page outlines some important information about how we will conduct ourselves when visiting a clients home, through to providing insight into how we will progress house sales and manage the hundreds of properties we manage for landlords. As information is coming through daily this will be updated as soon as possible.

Some of us at McCarthy Holden are those at greater risk so have already started working from home – you may notice a smaller number of people in the office, but this is to protect those that need it most. All the decisions that are being made and have been made are guided by Public Health England and we have closely aligned ourselves with the latest government advice and guidance.

With regards to our clients, their health and property, we are continuing as normal at the moment with viewings, negotiations and sales progression, and we are currently very busy. We do expect things will need to change so Skype valuations and viewings are being set up to allow everyone to continue to use our services as best possible. We are also looking at Live chat and Skype consultations with our negotiators or with our sales progressors so communication can be open at all times.

Our request

With anyone who is coming into contact with McCarthy Holden employees – viewers, valuations, office visits – we ask that if you are showing any of the symptoms or are residing with anyone who is self-isolating to please let us know so we can minimise risk.

Whilst we are, as always, delighted to see people, please don’t be offended that we won’t be shaking hands and will be keeping a safe distance. In some cases we may not be able to offer drinks or refreshments as we would normally, but instead we will offer you hand sanitiser and facilities to wash your hands during our time together.

We are also aware that vendors and landlords are worried about even the smallest risk of virus transmission, so when we meet buyers or tenants for viewings we will be providing latex gloves so that things like door knobs, stairs and kitchen equipment are not touched with bare hands. Alcohol wipes and hand sanitisers will be used both in homes and in offices regularly.

Our reply

We will beat this with the rest of the UK by following the governments advice. We will work with everyone to ensure minimum risk. We will help in our communities whenever and wherever possible.

Our future

In the coming weeks, we will be looking to minimise the risk to employees further. Initially this will be through reduced hours or shift rotas and ultimately may need to have all staff working from home in the coming weeks, possibly sooner depending on government directive. That does not mean we are not available to continue our work and we are set up with all communications and technology to continue doing what we do best.

Meanwhile, business is operating as usual and we remain committed to the well-being of our staff and customers at this difficult time. 

We wish everyone a safe time over the coming days,weeks or even months, take care of each other and we hope everyone will be back on track and feeling safe before too long.

Samantha Holden

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