Play out in this rain?

No yacht? Find a reed (sedges have edges, reeds r round) & make one.

Rain: it’s a British Bank Holiday dilemma. This post is by Nicola Baird.

In my book Homemade Kids I stress the need to take our children outside – however young – and of course it can be good for us grownups too. But when it keeps raining what can you do? Well over the past 2 days of pretty much non-stop rain we’ve walked in the woods, used umbrellas, read in the conservatory, played a lot of games and made use of the local swimming pool and library. My girls are now 12 and 9 but I remember doing exactly the same with them when they were babies.

I don’t look forward to the shorter days of autumn much, but my Dad used to love wet weather (summer or winter) because he said it made people stay in, so we could have the footpaths and fields to ourselves. Ta Da! As a child I don’t remember ever going for a long walk unless it was raining. This isn’t really very kind… but if you are a natural loner mum/dad then by all means follow your instincts, just kit the kids up in proper waterproofs (ie, over-trousers) or let them wear shorts so their material legs don’t get so soggy. Done not too often a walk in wet woods is a proper adventure – and some snacks and treats to keep morale up will pay off. Surely it’s what Shackleton would have done?

I’d love more children to play outside, but on a walk by the Kennet and Avon Canal earlier this week – inbetween rain bursts – I met five quite young boys and girls who’d found a dead eel and were displaying some very sinister Lord of the Flies tenets. One of the smallest boys was jumping up and down on the eel shouting “Die bastard, die.” I  asked the kids why they were being so cruel – and was very relieved to be told that the eel had been dead from the start – their sister found it floating in the canal. The big sister wasn’t too far away, busy chatting to some boys.

It wasn’t lovely seeing the eel being jumped on, but if it was dead, then at least the children’s interest in animal life was being raised? I’m not 100 per cent sure and would appreciate comments from any readers of this blog.

Casual animal cruelty
It’s not just eels. This week in the newspapers we also have 40-something year old bank-worker Mary who put a cat into a wheelie bin for “a joke”. She’s obviously old enough to know better, and no doubt the RSPCA will sort this action out with a cash case. But toddlers are humans too, and thus sure to demonstrate some very horrible behaviour as they grow up and meet more things outside the house. I’m guilty as charged:  I was found eating live slugs aged about two and my most right-on friend (a vegan) says as a child she used to catch ladybirds to make jam. But that’s why us adults need to be around our learning children, and to demonstrate the right way to do things. We should not panic in front of our kids whenever meeting a new insect, animal, reptile. We should not revert to instinct which is either to whack it dead, or (perhaps more modern) to rush away from it, claiming it’s “dirty”.

Bank holiday job?
I also think we should remove all poisons from the garden shed – no more weed killing on the lawn means the bees get a chance. And bees, thanks to their pollinating skills, are potential saviours of the universe and maybe the ultimate food heroes. If turfing out the toxics isn’t for you, then at least talk to your little children about the birds and the bees this bank holiday. Let them be impressed by Mr Bee rather than frightened into immediate killer swat mode.

Let me know how it goes with a comment – or explain how you’ve dealt with mistaken cruelty… It could help us all.  Right now the RSPCA is looking for Britain’s kindest kid, so if your child has actually helped some animals then you could even nominate them!

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