Nature mum | Where shall I start?
I have been invited to write a monthly blog post for my local, online newspaper. It is based in a small Devon town but I hope that some of the activities and ideas will be able to you- no matter where you live. Enjoy!
This month I am going to be talking about treasure hunts, small local businesses that are great for children, alternative advent calendars and definitely NOT dwelling on how ‘unprecedented’ 2020 continues to be!
First up though, I would like to briefly introduce myself and this brand new blog. I was born in our little cottage hospital, possibly one of the last of my kind, so I couldn’t really be more local if I tried. I live here with my family; my husband, two year old daughter, two cats, dog and a new baby human who is due to be on Earth in February 2021. This blog is for anyone who loves being in nature and helping their children to appreciate it, wants to read about the struggles and occasional breakthroughs of parenting at the same time as trying to run a small business or even if you just have an interest in writing or the will to self publish. Phew- that’s a lot to fit into one blog so I better get going!
Autumn has always been a favourite time of year for me. The earthy colours and crisp air are a perfect combination for a beautiful nature walk with the family, or on my own with my camera, a bit of peace in this busy world. We are so lucky here in Sidmouth in that we have an array of stunning natural wonders on our doorstep- the sea and beach, fields, woodland and heathland to name but a few. It’s not always easy to make the most of these places with small children in tow, but the effort is usually worth it once those cobwebs have been blown away and there's a sweet tiredness that can only be achieved by a ramble around the woods or a blustery beach expedition.
One thing that I love to do with our toddler is head to the byes for a nature walk and treasure hunt. I tend to start these things with a romantic view of the two of us holding hands as we meander through golden, back lit oak trees, gently collecting ochre leaves ready for an afternoon of crafting with a hot chocolate in front of an open… well, radiator in our case but you get the point. Generally we have a lovely time but there are often a few child/ dog based struggles to contend with. The byes is a special place in that it caters for everyone, including a myriad of transport options. Bikes, scooters, ramblers, prams, buggies, mobility scooters; it really is as accessible as it gets. But add dogs and children to the mix and sometimes it can add a layer of unexpected angst to what would otherwise be a pleasant outing for all involved. Anyway, once the dog is under control and the child is happily engaged in foraging for natural treasures, it really is a lovely morning out. It is often advisable to steer clear from our furry friends, or certainly the areas they may have left their own, unpleasant offerings, in which case there is a ‘dog free zone’ in the centre of Margaret's meadow with lots of beautiful trees; and therefore leaves, and also one at the Community Orchard- a bit further down towards town. If you want to know more about things that go on in the Byes, there’s a great group who give up their time to enhance, protect and educate others on the area- Friends of The Byes- here is their facebook page for more info.
With children of reading age, why not create your own nature checklist? You can add things such as conkers, acorns and the usual suspects like pinecones and squirrels (don’t try and put a squirrel in your basket though- that’ll only end badly). It can also be fun to base your search on a theme such as ‘colours’ or ‘textures’. Phrases like ‘find something shiny’ or ‘find something yellow’ can add another dimension and really get the senses going. As much as I try to create new and fun learning opportunities for my toddler, I also know that modern life is busy and if I can replicate an activity and tweak it to fit our day then that’s a winner in my eyes! These little quests can be used anywhere- just change up the items to suit your location.
As I try to navigate through my second year as an ‘author’ with a new business and having to adapt to 2020’s new rules (who does 2020 think it is?) I am really aware that there are so many new, and well established small businesses in Sidmouth that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Before becoming a mum and developing a deeper fear and guilt about the state of the planet and how we are leaving it for our children and grandchildren, I didn’t really consider the plus side of shopping small and local. Not only is it a great boost to the local economy but it has a significant positive impact on our carbon footprint as well. We don’t have to drive for miles, thus polluting the atmosphere, and often our small local shops use local suppliers so we can also cut down on the transport miles for the goods that we are buying. As well as our local independents which are great for children's gifts; Flutterbys, Crane and Kind, Paragon books and Gliddons Toy shop to name some of my favourites, have you ever been for a wander around the charity shops in Sidmouth? Of course this will only be possible when they are back open but I would really recommend them for children's books, clothes and toys. Buying second hand is one of the very best things you can do for the planet so I like to mix it up between second hand and local, sustainable goodies for Christmas.
I am definitely not one to plan Christmas early. In fact I am usually completely disorganised and end up doing everything last minute. This year, however, I have planned one Christmas activity already which you might want to try with your little ones. A book advent. I can’t take credit for the idea but I have loved building up our little collection of books (and the odd treat) to wrap up and store ready for opening throughout December. I have sourced books from ‘facebook marketplace’ (only when safe to do so), our local independents, other self published authors and our local charity shops and I can honestly say that I have spent no more than £20 on a whole range of beautiful children's books. There are loads of creative ways you can create and wrap a book advent, have a look here for some ideas or have a little google yourself! There are also some really gorgeous ideas for alternative advents. Pictured is a beautiful DIY ‘gladvent’ calendar that you can get from here. Another small, local and very talented small business!
So, I think that’s about it for this month, thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to December's issue already where i’ll include as many planet friendly, local, festive treats and activities as I can find! Have a lovely few weeks, stay safe and be kind.
If you would like to check out my children's books and follow my journey, head to Hilda’s Planet website where you can also subscribe and receive free colouring pages! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram @hildasplanet_childrensbooks.
If you like what I create and would like to buy me a virtual coffee, you can here!