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Family matters: Take it outside

By Heather Large | Woman | Published:

With a promise of warmer weather on the way, blow away the cobwebs and get the family outside. Heather Large shows you how. . .

Parklife – round up the family, ditch anything digital and get outside

Parks and garden are bursting back into life, the birds are tweeting away and we can finally consider stepping outside without a coat. After a particularly cold and wet winter and months stuck indoors, we are all desperate for summer to get a move on.

Now spring is here it’s the time to put down the remote and boxsets and make the most of the brighter days and warmer temperatures.

There are said to be many benefits of spending time outdoors and it can be a great way for a family to have some quality time together. Getting outside can help you escape the stress of work or school, which if left unchecked can be associated with depression, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Enjoying some fresh air also keeps your immune system healthy, helping you to fight off any bugs or illnesses.

Sunshine provides vitamin D, which the human body needs to grow and carry out important processes. Spending time in the sun also leads to a better mood, while not enough exposure to sunlight contributes to symptoms of depression.

While keeping active and getting exercise is good for your overall health and wellbeing.

Experts say that children are spending more and more time cooped-up inside. Whether it’s hours of watching television or playing games online, they are busying themselves with indoor activities which often involve having their eyes glued to a screen. And a recent survey even showed that youngsters today spend half the time their parents did playing outside.

Latest figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, show children in Britain spend just 16 minutes a day playing or exploring in parks and other open spaces.

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By the time they’ve reached their mid-teens it drops to 10 minutes per day as younger children, aged between eight and 13, spend more time playing outdoors. But encouraging your family to spend time outside together can have benefits for you all and sharing activities can strengthen your bond.

It may already be something you’ve thought about doing but by the time the weekend has rolled around, other stuff has got in the way.

So the best thing to do is to plan ahead, put it on the family calendar, fix a date and stick to it. It will give you something to look forward to whether it’s a trip to a nature reserve or beauty spot or time relaxing in the local park or even your back garden.

Just going for a walk will have many benefits – may try exploring somewhere your family has never visited before to make it more of an adventure. Obviously we live in England so we all know the weather forecast can change in an instant and four seasons in one day can happen and regularly does.

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But don’t let some grey cloud or rain showers put you off. As long as you are dressed appropriately you can still have fun – remember how much you enjoyed jumping in puddles when you were young?

Stepping out of the front door will be the hardest thing but once you get into the swing of it, you may find you forget it’s raining.

When the skies are clear, one great way to get some fresh air is to embrace alfresco dining. There is something about eating outside that makes food taste better and children will love the change of scenery for their meals. Even if you don’t have a table in your garden, you can throw a blanket on the grass and take your plates and cutlery outside. Alternatively, you can pack a picnic and head further afield.

You don’t have to venture too far from home to spend more time outside. If your children are young, they may like to explore the back garden looking for interesting rocks, flowers, leaves, sticks, and insects.

As a family you can talk about the things you have found together and youngsters could even draw them in a sketchbook. The same activity could be repeated elsewhere such as a park.

Another way to fit in extra outside time into your busy day is to move reading time outdoors. If your children like listening to stories or reading them, then take the books and blankets outside.

If you have the space, help your child plant a few vegetables or sunflowers. They will enjoy watching them grow and learning about how to look after them as well as about food. Involving them in the process will also teach them about responsibility and this is a good way of getting regularly fresh air as the plants will need tending to most days.

The summer also brings many opportunities to attend a whole host of outdoor events taking place across the Black Country and Staffordshire from festivals and outdoor concerts, to air shows and carnivals.

As a family, you could also consider taking up a sport to enjoy together such as tennis or visit an outdoor swimming or paddling pool.

Whatever activity you choose, spending more time in the great outdoors will no doubt bring many long-term benefits for you and your family.

THINGS TO DO WITH THE CHILDREN IN THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS

With summer almost here we all want to make the most of the brighter weather. Here are 10 ways for the whole family to enjoy themselves during the Whitsun Bank Holiday break.

  1. Soak up the culture with outdoor theatre. West Bromwich’s Manor House will welcome the Festival Players who are bringing their production of A Winter’s Tale to the museum on May 28. Visitors are invited to bring a chair or a blanket as well as a picnic to enjoy in the grounds. The event will start at 5pm. For tickets call 0121 588 2985 or see www.crbo.co.uk/winterstale
  2. Go back in time at the Black Country Living Museum. From door knockers to record-breaking cars, follow the family discovery trail to identify items invented and made in the Black Country. Made in the Black Country will run from May 26 to June 3. Call 0121 557 9643 or see www.bclm.co.uk
  3. Make a splash at Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust. From Tuesday to Friday during half-term, youngsters can join the Little Skippers holiday club. There will be Black Country-themed activities as well as a boat trip. Call 0121 557 6265 or see www.dudleycanaltrust.org.uk
  4. Play in the park. Children can enjoy a special inflatable playground set up in Wolverhampton’s West Park from May 26 to June 3. It promises hours of fun for youngsters of all ages. See www.wolverhampton.gov.uk
  5. Join in the 50th anniversary celebrations at Chasewater Railway. It will be hosting a gala from May 26 to 28. See www.chasewaterrailway.co.uk
  6. Stroll around the grounds of historic Himley Hall. A guided walk looking at some of the architectural features and wildlife in the park will run from 10am until 12pm on May 27. It’s a free event but book by calling 01384 817817. It will be followed by an owl-themed children’s trail from 11am until 3pm on May 30.
  7. Find out what it was like to be a war soldier. Staffordshire Regimental Museum is holding a discovery day on May 30 when visitors can visit the air raid shelter, a full size reconstruction of a Western Front trench system, handle weapons and try on uniforms. See www.staffordshireregimentmuseum.com
  8. Tempt your tastebuds at The Great British Food Festival. This event aims to celebrate the nation’s love of great food and drink and will be at Weston Park, near Shifnal from May 26 to 28. See www.weston-park.com
  9. Step on board the Nimrod at RAF Museum Cosford. Visitors can learn about its intelligence gathering role as well as gaining an insight into the history of the aircraft and hearing about the crews on board. Tours will run from May 26 to June 3. See www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford
  10. Enjoy some medieval mischief at Worcestershire County Museum. On May 28, visitors can learn to be a knight, take part in the tournament games, become a squire in the royal court, and meet the royal guests. They can also try out their archery and sword fighting skills. The event will run from 11am until 4pm. See www.worcestershire.gov.uk/museums
Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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