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A Chance for Children to Explore Nature in the City

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Posted: Tuesday 18th April 2017 by WildBlog

Delighted squeals and the sound of small wellies splashing in a shallow stream fill the air on Knowle’s Northern Slopes on a sunny spring Wednesday, as a group of under-fives enjoy some wild play.

This My Wild Child session, run by Avon Wildlife Trust thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, is one of a regular series of fun outdoor sessions for parents and carers to enjoy with their pre-school children in different green spaces across the city.

The sessions give young children a chance to learn about nature through play, exploration, stories and activities, and parents and carers have a chance to spend time with their children outdoors. Sessions are led by Avon Wildlife Trusts’s Learning Development Officer, who provides gentle

guidance and offers a story and activities to join in with if the children choose to. The rest of the session is guided free play and exploration, where children choose what they want to do that week.

Local mum Steph Lockyer has been bringing her two boys, Logan aged nearly three, and sixteen- month-old Theoden, regularly. As Logan examines some insects and grasses up close through a magnifying glass, absorbed in his observations, Theoden splashes happily in the shallow stream running at the bottom of the site and Steph sums up the benefits for all of them.

“I feel it’s educational. Logan can explore in his own time and at his own pace. He already has a certain respect for nature – he knows he can’t trample on certain things because they’re special. I think that’s come from spending time outdoors,” she says.

Children’s need for more outdoor play and physical activity is gaining urgent attention. Government health guidelines are for children aged under five to spend three hours each day being physically active, and five to fifteen-year-olds to have at least an hour’s daily physical activity. Yet it can be a challenge for parents and carers to enable that, and in fact a 2016 survey found that a shocking 74% of British children spend less time outdoors than prisoners – that is less than one hour per day. But another poll in 2015 by The Wildlife Trusts nationally found that 91% of parents under-18s think having access to nature and wildlife is important for children.

Encouraging children to feel confident in nature and unlock their curiosity has measurable benefits for their physical and mental wellbeing. From simple activities like planting seeds, watching butterflies and birds, and looking at wildflowers and mini-beasts up close, they can develop a sense of the importance of the natural world around them in their city. It’s from this understanding that these ‘wild children’ can be supported to grow up into adults able to protect and stand up for nature in their adult lives.

The huddled heads of children looking closely at the pond skaters and plants fringing the stream in Knowle, are a sure sign that these young children are already nature custodians.

You can find out more about My Wild Child and our learning opportunities at avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/mywildchild

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