Today’s review comes from our own Vicki, who has had the pleasure of reading How to Get Kids Offline, Outdoors, and Connecting With Nature, 200+ Creative activities to encourage self-esteem, mindfulness, and wellbeing by Bonnie Thomas
If you’ve ever read my blog – The Boy’s Behaviour – you know that I like to have a load of activities planned for school holidays to keep the children occupied and to help my own sanity.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to think of original projects and activities for the children to do, so you can guess how pleased I was when this book dropped through my letterbox from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Now, neither of my children at 7 and 4, are really old enough to spend that much time online anyway, although the littlest one is a fan of the goggle box. But I would like to make sure we can spend lots of time outdoors this summer, making the most of our large garden, nearby woods, parks, local beach and nature reserve.
This book by Bonnie Thomas – a child and family counsellor living in the USA, is full of ideas for nature based activities and exercises that will inspire and encourage young people to spend more time outdoors.
The first few chapters are aimed at professionals working with young people who would like to incorporate more nature work and exercises in their practise. To be honest, I completely skipped those first four chapters to begin with, and opened up from Chapter 5 – Gardening for Wellbeing, which is the first of the chapters that are aimed at parents and care-givers.
I’ve already written down a good couple of dozen activities that I’d like to try with my kids this Summer (and probably before because I’m not sure I can wait!). There are a few activities that some children might struggle with, possibly because of the emotions they invoke, or purely because they’re a bit fiddly and less dextrous children might become frustrated, but as a parent you’d be best placed to pick and choose those relevant activities.
There are sections on gardening, general outdoor activities, blacktop (pavement/tarmac) activities, sand and beach, forest and trees, fields and grassy areas, puddles and mud, rivers and streams, snow and bringing nature indoors. Each section has a really good selection of activities from crafty makes (with minimal supplies needed) to imaginative play opportunities and suggestions.
My own favourites so far are making a fairy garden*, chalk photo booths, sand silhouettes, ice cube boats and a garden play kitchen.
After poring over the parent’s chapters, I popped back to the beginning and have scanned through the professional’s activities because I wondered what was there.
The chapters include ‘Incorporating Nature in Your Therapeutic Practice’, ‘Relaxation and Mindfulness’, ‘Self-Esteem and Positive Connections’ and ‘Nature-based Therapy and Grief Work with Youth’. And within those sections are further activities that are not only for professionals but could be adapted for use at home – storytelling stones, nature collages, zen gardens, wishing wands and many many more. Some of the professional activities also give suggestions for discussion and reflection.
This book is well written and packed full of activities. The professional part looks just as interesting and informative at the parent’s part and is something that intend to read in more detail. The only thing that lets this book down is that the photos are in black and white, I think they’d look much better in colour.
But I’d certainly be interested in reading further titles by the same author – Creative Coping Skills for Children sounds particularly relevant.
*Editor’s note: OK, so I really couldn’t wait to try out the Fairy House and Garden, and Dollop and I spent an hour one morning collecting bark, twigs, dried bamboo leaves and raiding the shell collection, then another hour or more in the afternoon making a house, shed and a veg patch for some fairies. Dollop even made some magical petal perfume to encourage the fairies to come to her house 🙂 It was a brilliant activity that not only saw us connecting with and collecting natural objects, but then I got treated to a wonderful story, courtesy of her four year old imagination, and she got more and more ‘into’ the idea of fairies coming and what they’d do…she can’t wait to check in the morning to see if they’ve visited.