Richard Alldrick, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Co-ordinator at Alleyn’s, tells us how to help our children get the benefits of being outdoors.
Having seen countless children through their Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards over the last 20 years, Richard is a keen advocate of the scheme. Apart from its focus on volunteering and skills, it also gets young people into the great outdoors, which is especially valuable and healthy for our London-based children.
We all know that getting active and being outside is good for our physical and mental health and many parents are keen to reduce screen time and encourage socialising – away from social media. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme is run by many schools and youth groups but there are plenty of other ways to get your child active outdoors – and the great news is that many of them are low-cost orfree.
Get them while they are young
Young children generally gravitate to all things natural. You can nurture this innate interest from a young age, with a garden or local park as great starting points. Encourage your child to interact with nature in their play – be it jumping off tree stumps, collecting insects or stirring mud with a stick – and tell them it is fine to get wet and dirty… because it all comes out in the wash! Here are some more ideas:
- Have a picnic dinner at a playground or park.
- Use some rope and an old sheet to build a den.
- Create a simple treasure hunt for your child and some friends.
- Get them along to an outdoor obstacle course such as Mini Mudders.
- Look into the Girlguiding and/or Scout Associations; their sections for different age groups offer outdoor activities such as camping and abseiling.
The older child
As your child gets older you can encourage outdoor time by doing homework outdoors, planning a walk or camping overnight in your garden. With more planning there are some great activities that might take you further afield:
- Create an outdoor scavenger hunt for them and some of their friends. Dulwich or Sydenham woods would be a good start.
- Get them involved in Junior Park Runs or triathlons.
- Consider doing an orienteering course together – it is a great way to teach map reading and you can do it in an afternoon.
- Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game that combines technology with adventure and can be enjoyed by the whole family. (See the link below for how to get started).
If your child is not keen on the outdoors you could try giving them a few options so that they can decide which activity they would prefer, and if you join in too it will not only give you some quality time with them but your enthusiasm will be infectious. If all else fails, hide the remote control and switch off the Wi-Fi!