When my eldest was finally able to be pushed really high on the swings, and let out high pitched screams of joy that I was sure were secret communication between him and local dogs/practice for communicating with dolphins, he was still having two mega naps a day, and I was heavily pregnant. We were limited to a short lunchtime dash between naps. When I had the two of them, with very conflicting nap schedules, we spent even more rushed moments when they were both actually awake, going outside! Having come from a job where I spent a lot of time outside, there were quite a lot of wistful, staring at the four walls times during this period!

I’m sure you can guess from my previous posts, that the deep thinking, tentative eldest, generally favoured slightly more genteel outdoor adventures like sand and water tables tables-swings were sometimes as adventurous as he got. And again, as you all know, the assassin child didn’t get his name for nothing…! He was using me as human climbing equipment and making as many freedom rolls as possible, before he could even walk!

outdoor play

And then we arrived at what I call the Golden Era. An era where they had co-ordinated naps (I co-ordinated mine with theirs, obviously!) and the rest of the day, we were freeeeeeeeee!!! Although I’ve mainly moaned ruminated about how hard each stage of parenting has been-I really do miss this particular time. The mornings being free, and getting a rest in the afternoon, is probably the dream combination, right?! Even at that stage, soft play was ok for the boys (and I seriously disliked it,) but going to the park was always, and still is, where it’s at.

children on swings, outdoor play

We have what we call the ‘secret park’ around the corner from us-so named because we didn’t even know it was there when we moved in, and it’s always so quiet! It’s surely one of Bristol’s best kept secrets. Although it does have what I once overheard one parent call ‘the bridge of death,’ a very high bridge with gaping gaps either side, and between each step…! It wasn’t until, yep, it was bound to happen-the youngest ‘run before you can walk’ child had climbed onto it, got half way before I realised he was no longer rolling safely in the mud, and fallen inevitably by the Law Of Sod through one of the gaps, that I fully appreciated playground surfaces too… After he’d bounced and rolled a few times, then pulled himself up guffawing, ready to go again, one of the other parents gave me an in depth explanation about the flooring is specially designed to do that, to break his fall. This, I admit, is something I’d never even paid attention to before. I’m now eternally grateful for it every time he falls from something he’s way too young, but far too adventurous not to be climbing.

outdoor play

Even the deciding factor in the eldest’s school, was the sheer volume of amazing wooden climbing frames in the extensive outdoor space. We were lucky that our other two choices we loved just as much, and they had a gorgeous literally ‘old school’ Victorian charm, but very little outdoor play space. Plus when the head teacher said that the school liked to put much more of an emphasis on playing in the primary years, and learning through outdoor play especially for reception and year one children, that was even more of a reason to choose it.

It can be hard to get the little one passed the school play equipment every day (I think I get the email ‘can we just remind you that siblings ARE NOT TO PLAY ON THE OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT!’ more than everyone else!) It’s like putting him in a bath of chocolate and telling him he can’t touch it, twice a day at pick up and drop off! But he’s looking forward to starting school next year, just for the play equipment alone!

outdoor play

Don’t get me wrong, I can still be a bit meh about it. I can be too cold, too tired, and feel a little Groundhoggish about going to the same places, and doing the same things on repeat. But we do have some amazing park memories, and days where the children have been to the park and played well for hours, have just been the easiest days-they are so much happier for it. Also, research carried out by ESP Play found that:

“With over 1,000 children being referred to hospital as a result of obesity, and 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2 and 10 being overweight, these figures are truly alarming.”

Me and my husband enjoy, and are still trying to improve upon, our healthy lifestyles, and we want to instil that into the children too. And while their diet is still a work in progress, at least I can ease my guilt, and at least hold onto the fact that they run wild and free in the park, as often as they need, even if I’m sometimes in need of just a trashy magazine and a sit down…! Being outside means they are happier, and then we all have a happier family dynamic-a win, in a sometimes very winless life!

*This is a collaborative post.