As the nights draw in it is so easy to enter into a sort of hibernation. The curtains closed, the heating on and we are shut off from the outside world. However, this time of year is a great way to explore the great outdoors after the sun has gone down. In the summer it gets dark too late for younger children to be able to enjoy the wonders of the world at night, but in the winter, it is dark long before bedtime so it’s a great time to appreciate how different everything is at night time.
This doesn’t have to be a full blown winter camping trip – even I’m not that brave! But a few simple things can give you and your children a totally different view of their surroundings. Here are a few things you could try.
Watch the sunset near water.
We are fortunate to be able to use my parent’s narrow boat from time to time and there is something really magical about sunset on the water. But you do’t need a boat to enjoy this. Head down to a canal, river, lake or reservoir just as the sun is setting and watch the colours reflect on the water. Take a flask of hot chocolate with you and a wonderful memory has been made.
Chart the moon.
In the past, our ancestors would have marked the passage of time by the phases of the moon. We’ve lost touch with this but there are lots of apps out there which can help you identify the phases of the moon. Maybe you and your children could fill in a simple chart (I’ve created one for you to download on this post) to chart the phases of the moon, and get back in touch with the rhythms of nature which would have been so well known to our ancestors.
Learn some constellations.
A few easy ones are the plough, or big dipper, Cassiopeia and Orion. You may also be able to spot some planets! Download a star map app to help you out, but you’ll soon get to know some constellations.
Go for a night-hike.
This is something I will do with my Guides this winter. Get wrapped up warm, take a good torch (a head torch is a brilliant idea) and wear a high vis jacket or band so you can be seen and take off for a walk. Stop after a while and stand in silence, what can you hear? What can you smell? How is it different to a walk in the day time?
This doesn’t need to be a 5 mile hike, a 20 minute walk around the park can be just as interesting!
Think carefully about the potential risks and make sure you have you phone (check for signal) and let someone know where you’re going and when to expect you back.
Cook over a fire.
Have a look at my last blog post about cooking over an open fire. Even some marshmallows on a stick in the back garden is an exciting experience for the whole family.