Outdoor play keeps the doctor away | Alison Cross

We have all heard the famous phrase "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", but it is also important to be physically active as well as eating the odd piece of fruit and veg.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 3:45 pm
The free Little Saplings sessions are a fantastic way for toddlers to explore the great outdoors

This is especially important with our children and using the outdoors as a free play centre is my kind of gym.

I didn't play much sport as a kid but was happiest when in the woods building a den, digging for worms and running around with a stick.

I am very lucky that I still get to do this, as part of my job with local East Lancashire families and school groups.

Today recent studies have revealed how some young people are more disconnected with nature, reluctant to go outside and not physically fit and healthy.

These are the kids I love to work with as part of my job. As an advocate for outdoor learning, I enjoy nothing more than showcasing den building, natural art or simply walking within the landscape.

When an adult or child changes their mind about the outdoors and starts to become interested in what you are showing them, that's when I know I am onto a winner.

Last week I had a group of reluctant teenagers' pond dipping.

At the start they were 'creeped out' with the smelly water, weird creatures and 'yucky pond weed' as they called it.

After 20 minutes they were all identifying newt tadpoles, dragonfly larvae and water fleas. Some even wanted to take their new friends' home with them.

The group became very calm and focused around the pond, while trying to prevent top predators eating the little insects.

A successful session is when young people have learnt something new about nature, understood we need to protect our local wildlife and have changed their mind about the outdoors being boring.

A good running around game, as bumble bees pretending to pollinate flowers, and the teenagers were back to their loud selves again.

It is so important to give the next generation these opportunities to connect with nature, within a comfortable setting and with support.

Through the events and sessions I provide, I hope to influence and inspire people to take on new outdoor hobbies, care for their local birds or simply use their local green spaces more for physical activity and to improve their mental health.

Like me, some families have limited private outdoor space or no access to wild spaces. For those of us who live in terraces and flats, our local parks are our sanctuary and I do hope there are children building dens and making mud pies in them.

You can find out more about free family nature events and the outdoor toddler group on our website www.pendlehillproject.com/little-saplings