As we move into colder weather its tempting to snuggle up indoors and veg out. However we know it is important for all of us to spend time outdoors.
Research shows time in nature not only impacts on our physical health and mental wellbeing, it also helps the development of our senses.
Our current requirement to socially isolate creates opportunities for families to spend time in the outdoors together, and that means we need to support parents to understand the range of possibilities that exist and how best to help our children benefit from these opportunities.
A local group have put together a website (https://habitatarmidale.com/) that offers a range of ideas.
Families do not have to go outside their own back yards to help their children gain the benefits from being in nature.
Now that we have lots of autumn leaves scattered around children can build piles of these - who can remember the fun that comes from jumping into a large pile of leaves?
I can remember as a child making 'huts' where leaves formed low boundaries and then having lots of imaginative games where 'knights' would storm my 'castle.'
Children could be challenged to find a range of different coloured autumn leaves which could be threaded onto a string to make a bracelet, necklace or a decoration to string across your front fence.
A net thrown over a tree branch can make an interesting cubby and if you have longer sticks you might be able to make a tepee.
Older children could be supported to draw up plans before beginning the creation of your cubby whilst younger children could help sorting the sticks or building materials into different sizes.
Once you have a cubby you can play a range of imaginative games.
Younger children benefit from acting out familiar scripts (eg going to the doctor, going to the supermarket, going to school).
Older children might enjoy developing the 'rules' for the use of the cubby, writing them up and developing the consequences for rule breaches (lots of opportunities here for deep discussions about justice and fairness, and how best to enact these concepts).
We often think of the classic academic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic as things that we learn inside sitting at a desk.
However, the real world provides lots of opportunities for learning these academic skills.
Children can be encouraged to draw a map of a part of the garden.
Older children can be asked to draw to scale with measurements of distance and size. Younger children can draw the features that are important to them.
Once maps are drawn, they could be used to have a treasure hunt, with clues referencing points on children's maps.
Here younger children might be encouraged to use directional words such as left, right, behind, in front of; and they can practice counting by having directions spelled out n terms of the number of steps (eg walk 3 steps to the left of the tree).
Older children can be asked to draw to scale with measurements of distance and size. Younger children can draw the features that are important to them
Older children might use compass directions and measurements in metres to navigate to the hidden treasure.
You may not be aware that along the Creeklands are 13 tree circles, each focusing on particular species of trees along with particular grasses and/or shrubs.
The website above offers a link to a document called Armidale Biodiversity Walk which will give you more information about these.
For example, near Taylor Street is Circle 8 which has New England Peppermint trees.
These trees develop holes which function as homes for birds, bats, frogs and lizards so offer an opportunity for children to observe and learn more about our wildlife.
Spiny-headed Mat-rush is also planted in this circle.
This is excellent for erosion control and it also offers nectar which is eaten by beetles and other insects. Frogs and other small animals also live around this plant.
Our wonderful sunny winter days are perfect for wandering along the Creeklands path, and exploring these tree circles.
Perhaps you could print out the document and have children mark off each of the plants they see and identify the insects and small animals thy find in each habitat.
Armidale has lots of other walking tracks where children can explore, experiment with a range of movements (balancing on a log, jumping over - and in - puddles.
For example, you can walk from Judith St between Ross St and Gentles Road or try a loop walk via Kelly's Plains Road and Ross St.
You might also try the walkway from Scholes St between Link Rd and Duval campus.
Here there is a paved track for cycling or walking which goes under the highway but you need to be a little careful here as that part can be slippery.