Joe & Fin test the depth of a small stream on Hampstead Heath. They were there ages, probing the mud, and talking, talking about what they saw, and imagining all kinds of things they couldn’t see too…

I wouldn’t want you to run away with the idea that our kids exist in some kind of ‘apple-pie & rosy-cheeked’ nature-focused bubble in the heart of the city. No, that’s not the case at all. They’re as passionate about computer games and TV and ‘stuff’ in general as any kids, and that’s absolutely fine by me, after all that’s their  world too.

But I also feel that there’s a need for balance, and from the start we’ve tried to match the vivid intensity of living in a city with the adventure, opportunity and excitement of the great outdoors / the physical environment too.

Visits to our family,  living in the Peak District or close to the Suffolk coast, and to the boat have all helped tremendously, but the greatest impact comes much more basically and more locally from a determination to encourage the kids to look up, get up and go outside to explore their world.

For the Boys this has often meant pulling on whatever clothes were at hand, plus wellies or sandals, then finding a multi-functional poking, probing, ‘do-anything’, ‘go-anywhere’ stick and getting ‘stuck in’ to whatever environment they’re exposed to; whether that was a muddy stream across a field or a slippery gallery floor (last weekend they ‘swam’ flat on their bellies across the shiny floor of the Camden Art Centre to the bemusement/amusement of some very serious-faced gallery go-ers).

Children’s engagement in the natural, physical world is profoundly important helping to ‘root’ or ‘ground’ them in non-virtual, high value reality.  At times of such engagement their self-reliance and physical self-confidence develops and their innate ability to play without expensive or complex additional resources flourishes – imagination (and the odd stick!) really is enough.

The opportunities for simply ‘being in the moment’, for savouring the seed of a creative idea, for taking time to note an observation, or enjoy the sight, smell, taste and touch of the world shouldn’t solely be the provence of children. We need to nurture the child inside us too, by giving ourselves permission to immerse ourselves in the physical world around us. We lose our connection with the physical world at our peril.

So, why not take a leaf out of the Boys book and be tempted out by the lighter evenings (they’ll be gone before you know it…) and regardless of the weather – get out there, get your hands dirty, seek out that stick and look with a child’s eyes at the the wonder of this early Summer season in it’s luminous green verdancy.

Oh, and if I spot any of you swimming across the shiny floor of the Camden Arts Centre I’ll totally understand!

One o’clock, two o’clock, fascinated by dandelion clocks…
“Look dad, I can climb all the way up here on my own!”
“Dad, where do the ‘fairy’ seeds go?”
“This fence is making music!”


Brick Henge.



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