I’m often stopped in the park by a range of strangers who’ll say I’m “brave” or “completely mad” because of what I’ll allow Sam to do. I don’t mean behaviour-wise, although of course there are times when a tantrum comes out of nowhere and to be fair, on those occasions, I probably do look a bit like a crazy lady doing anything to cause a distraction! These “completely mads” are usually at times when we’re jumping in puddles, making sandcastles out of mole hills or sticking wet leaves to our arms and welly boots; those fun-filled games which nature provides!
And yesterday was no exception. It was a gloriously sunshine-y day, so off we toddled to the park to throw the ball for Pepper and have a bit of a play for us. Well, what a wonderful surprise it was when we arrived to find that the grass had just been cut and there were great heaps of freshly mown lawn awaiting our arrival!
In no time at all we were interjecting wanging the ball with grass mountain making, grass rain clouds and grass angels! The cuttings were dry and had a really interesting texture for Sam. He loved throwing a chunk of it up in the air and seeing it come down in different formations, trying to catch them before he created another. It was, much to Sam’s glee, as a particularly large “cloud” landed on his head giving him a grassy wig, when I was described as “brave” and didn’t I know I’d have to “give him a good clean later”. Right on queue Sam decided to roll around in one of our larger mountains ranges, with the dog!
I hadn’t realised until I became a mama just how relaxed I actually was around dirt and mess, sometimes possibly a bit too much! Or how it could be seen as brave by others. Playing outside is actually one aspect of parenting which really came naturally to me. I love being outdoors with Sam, experiencing nature through his eyes, facing all elements and receiving a sensory reward for our efforts whilst getting a good ole dose of fresh air too. I think because it did come so naturally to me I simply hadn’t thought that it wouldn’t to everyone, including my husband! He’ll cringe at some of the “treasures” he’s handed on nature walks, puddle splashing makes him incredibly nervous and the face of disgust displayed when Sam sits in soil and starts to play in it is comical, especially as I’d have always thought it would be the other way around!
In a world so overtaken by technology and parental scaremongering I find being outside with Sam gives me a sense of freedom, which I find refreshing. It’s a joy living vicariously through him, allowing my inner child to come to the surface and say “stuff you laundry, I’m making mud cakes!” The irony being, of course, that the mud cakes inevitably create a bigger pile of washing. But I guess that’s the thing, I tend to think it can all just be washed, including us.
I’ve learned that being a mama really does push me out of my comfort zone and I know I’m not alone in that. For all I’m fine with mess, trust me, there are so many other situations when I’m completely out of my depth feeling very un-brave and uncomfortable. Plus it takes everything I can do not to heave when passed a half-eaten, mushed up banana with no bin in sight. Therefore, if nature’s chaos doesn’t come naturally to you, then fear not; you’ll have a clean child and less laundry! I have, however, listed a few not-too-messy-outdoors-messy-fun ideas which might just be able to tempt you…
As well as puddle splashing, we love taking our big umbrella out in the rain and listening to the noise the drops make!
Walking the dog creates a great opportunity for making nature lollipops! We find a good stick (or “dick” as Sam’s currently calling them, slightly to my mortification!) and then look for leaves of different colours, shapes and sizes to thread on to said stick.
Tree trunks are a great play aid! We love peek-a-boo tree and enjoy feeling the different textures under our fingers – when he’s older I’d love to take paper and crayons with us on walks so that we can make some bark rubbings, although, knowing what Sam’s like, he’ll prefer to throw the paper in to puddles! Tree roots are also a favourite in our house too, they make challenging stepping stones and are, apparently, interesting to point at too!
In the words of my mother, wise as she is, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” and I think this can easily be applied to making mess too, although it would be nice if she could come and do my laundry…