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Mummy Thoughts, Nature Kids

Outdoor Playgroup

I love Mummy Days – days when Monkey is at home with me and we play together (now with Chimp too).  However, until March 2012, I was quite frustrated in the choices I had for activities on our Mummy Days.  There are playgroups a-plenty in Newcastle and numerous classes for pre-schoolers but almost all have one thing in common – they are indoors.

Daily dog walks meant Monkey was regularly out and about, but she wasn’t playing with peers and I felt she was limited by the imagination of her parents and our need to exercise the dog too.

My work area is environmental education, so when I set up my own business providing environmental workshops for schools, I also set up nature classes for pre-schoolers and their parent/carer. I loved running these, especially seeing youngsters having fun exploring, playing and especially discovering things together.  This was something Monkey didn’t get when out on walks with us & Jess (the dog).

Often we would initiate games or she would be off in a world of her own (and sticks or stones), exploring textures, shapes or whatever took her fancy.  There was a time when she could sit and play with stones for at least half-an-hour if we could last that long.  But there was no interaction with other children, no sharing of ideas, no leading each other (into or out of mischief), no challenges, no copying to push themselves.

I wanted her to have these experiences and for me to experience them with her.

The Nature Kids classes were successful through the summer and into early autumn, but as winter drew in numbers dropped off.  It was around then that I found I was pregnant with Chimp and we lost Jess.  She was sadly knocked down on the road in the dark, probably chasing something as was her lurcher nature.

Our walks did drop off a bit, especially as all our local walks held such strong memories of Jess – it felt odd (and somehow wrong) to be walking there without her.

Whilst browsing on the internet I found a great idea in Canada – Outdoor Playgroups and everything seemed to click.  One woman felt how I did – she wanted her children to play outdoors with other kids, so she started an outdoor playgroup and then a movement of outdoor playgroups across Canada and into the US.

So I chatted with a few friends and people who had come along to Nature Kids to see what they thought, decided on a day, time and start date and have never looked back.

Unlike the Canadian Group, I thought to explore different places each week so that people from different parts of Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and Durham could join in too.  It would also allow us to discover new areas to play and I thought would broaden the appeal.

I can safely say that Monkey and I love Outdoor Playgroup, no matter what the weather and only missed a few weeks after Chimp was born.

Yew trees often make wonderful climbing trees for young children. This one is in Saltwell Park in Gateshead.

We get up to all sorts – trees get climbed; puddles get jumped in, run through and have stoned thrown in or leaves/pots floated across; mud gets played with; sticks evolve into a range of things from fishing rods and swords to Pooh Sticks; fallen logs are walked along with (or without) help; bushes provide hiding places and beaches are played on for hours.  We run, we roll, we jump, we clamber, we sit, we chat, we laugh, we sing, we look at beasties, we create mouse or snake homes, most of all we have fun.

We celebrated International Mud Day by painting some trees with mud and making clay tree spirits.

Numbers have never been high, but that means that the children play well together and the parents get to chat.  I know I value this time outside with Monkey, her OP friends and their mums. If anything I value it even more since Chimp has arrived.  Getting out with the pair of them in fresh air, in a natural (usually) green space helps to clear my head, make me forget my sleepless nights and bring a smile to my face.  I know that Monkey will have fun and be happily tired by the end of the afternoon.  Chimp tends to sleep through, but he always seems pretty chilled after an afternoon out and about.

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About ecomumof2

I am a mum of 2 children, currently 8 and 4.5. We Home Educate and enjoy a wide range of activities - many of which involve being outdoors.

Discussion

8 thoughts on “Outdoor Playgroup

  1. Love this post & thanks so much for adding it to the outdoor play link up – there is a new one starting tomorrow so keep us in mind if you have any other great posts. I am so impressed that you took the canadaian idea & made it work for you in your region, I have shared your post on my page & will enjoy following your adventures from now on, Kierna

    Posted by Kierna Corr (@CiarnaC) | 11/10/2012, 4:10 pm
  2. Hi I am Cerys from Rainy Day Mum and I would love to get in touch with you about how you went about starting the outdoor playgroup as a form marine biologist and environmental educator and now mum of 2 young children it’s something that I am very interested in doing in East Anglia. I have just discovered your blog via Learning for life facebook page and would love to hear more.

    Posted by Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum | 11/10/2012, 4:21 pm
    • Hi Cerys thanks for getting in touch, have just had a brief look at your site – what a lot of fab ideas, will definitely be looking to do some of those. Essentially I started the outdoor Playgroup by inviting mums of pre-school age that I knew, posting it on Netmums and the Council Families Service website. I started it through my business website, but soon realised Facebook was a better medium to organise events. It is a closed FB group for safety, and we keep it quite casual, people come when they can. Others can organise events too and one mum has set her own weekly outdoor play date too. What we do depends on what the kids want, they tend to lead and we follow. Sometimes we walk a mile or two, other times we play in a small area. Sometimes we are the only people, but because it is Outdoor Playgroup time, Monkey is really into the exploration and we have some great sharing moments looking, listening, observing and being in nature. Hope this helps, otherwise do email me if I can help further.

      Posted by ecomumof2 | 11/10/2012, 6:10 pm
  3. Hi Kierna, thanks so much for sharing my blog. It is great reading your blog and discovering fellow outdoor play lovers, will try to get on the link-up tomorrow too.

    Posted by ecomumof2 | 11/10/2012, 5:57 pm
  4. Hi. Thanks for your post. I realise this post was a number of years ago and your kids are now both of school age, but do you know if the playgroup or something similar is still active? I am moving to Newcastle in January and definitely want to find a group of families interested in outdoor play. I am originally from Canada and am moving to Newcastle for my husbands work knowing no one there and nothing about the city. If you have any advice on groups, where to live, etc., I would greatly appreciate it. My son will be 2.5 years old in September. Thanks!

    Posted by Deb Heard | 06/08/2016, 2:14 pm
    • Hi Deb
      Thanks for your enquiry. I am not sure if the playgroup is still running or not, however a really good place to get in contact with is the Northumberland Wildlife Trust as they run a few outdoor activities. Jesmond Dene in Newcastle also has activities from time to time for little ones. Jesmond is a lovely area too on the whole, but can be a bit studenty. We lived in Gosforth which is on the outskirts and has greenspaces within walking distance. We no longer live in Newcastle, but it is a great city and people are very friendly. Sorry I can’t be of more help to you, we moved away over 3 years ago now and I have rather lost touch.
      Good luck with your move and I am sure you will really enjoy the city.
      Philippa

      Posted by ecomumof2 | 13/08/2016, 9:52 pm

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