Nicola Baird: I love outdoor play because..

Nicola Baird is a writer, environmentalist and supporter of Love Outdoor Play.   Brimming with “thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise happy children”, here Nicola shares why she loves outdoor play along with a beautiful example.

“This doesn’t feel like outdoor play”

“I love getting muddy” says Orla admiring her now-sodden jeans. Beside her Clio proudly holds my terrier on a lead. Their friend (and my daughter) Nell is skipping along beside them, asthma inhaler zipped up in her fleece. There’s a light, freezy rain but it’s the last day of the holidays and nothing is going to stop these three nine-year-olds having fun outdoors in London.

They try to catch leaves to make a wish, scatter into the undergrowth and then yank down old man’s beard vines to improve their profiles.

What’s so strange is how going on a walk with the dog up a bridleway (well, actually an old railway) is such a novelty for two out of three of these Year 5s. They can talk a head of steam about jeggings, phones and High School Musical but only Nell is confident identifying oak, ash and hawthorn from their winter profiles. And that’s because I’ve made a game of it since she was introduced to the big outside way back in February 2001.

Clio is the most timid – she worries we might meet bats; the bigger dogs creep her out and she’s reluctant to go off-path tunneling through the ivy clad sycamore trunks in case she’s hurt. But today we’re in no hurry and as no one’s fussing about the state of their clothes it’s not long before all three girls challenge themselves to clamber up the slippery skateboard track laughing as they fall bum first down the muddy sides. They get good at IDing trees. They balance on logs, and then tumble off.

This doesn’t feel like outdoor play – it’s just a walk with the dog and someone’s mum tagging along – but when the girls arrive home crumpets and hot chocolate are guzzled up and no one even suggests turning on the TV.
Tomorrow it’s school again, but today they ran free and it was muddy enough to make them feel good.

Nicola Baird’s newest book is HOMEMADE KIDS: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. You can find out more about this book and discover her blog here. Nicola tweets @kokorako too.

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