Fun and learning by the river - an old-fashioned summer

Posted by iChild, May 17, 2017 9:44 AM

By Squished Blueberries

As I type this the sun is shining outside my window and temperatures have been rising steadily for the last week or so. My thoughts turn to the long summer months stretching out ahead of us and I wonder what adventures are in store for me and my three children. I’m a huge believer in embracing each season as it comes, and summer for me means getting outdoors as much as possible. And I don't just mean parks and adventure playgrounds, as fun as they are. I’m passionate about giving my children a back-to-basics, old fashioned kind of childhood, and that means getting close to nature, being adventurous and finding our own fun.


Children learn so much just from investigating their surroundings, and the best thing of all is that they are having so much fun, they don’t even realise they are learning. Being outdoors as a family, away from distractions and enjoying each other’s company, is such a valuable experience for children. Their ability to take on board and retain new information is improved so much by being in a happy, relaxed environment, and when the learning takes place as a shared experience with a parent, that’s even more powerful. As a home educator, this is what I rely on to help my children learn and develop in the most natural way possible.

This weekend we were down by the river Meon, although it was still a bit chilly in early May. I can’t wait to spend long, lazy days there in the height of summer and I’m sure we will be back to this beautiful spot many times before autumn arrives. So I thought I’d share a few things you can do with your children in a shallow river, if you’re in need of some inspiration.

Look for wildlife

There’s always something interesting to be found in a river; have a look by the long grass at the edges and see what you can discover. If you have a net and a bucket (or just a bucket), even better, you can do a bit of pond dipping! Take a magnifying glass and a spotter’s guide and see if you can identify any of the little critters. No luck? Take a photo and have a google together when you get home. If your children are a little bit older, a fun project would be to print your photos and make them into a little book, writing any facts you can find out about the creature next to their photo on the page.


 Nature journal

Take sketch books, some pencils, even some watercolours, and enjoy drawing, painting and writing about whatever catches your attention, it could be interesting plants or animals. Lead by example, children love to imitate and emulate their parents and older siblings so don’t be shy, have a go! You might surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it.

Stepping stones and dams

Can you find any big rocks to make stepping stones across the river? Or build a dam across a narrow section (but make sure you dismantle it before you leave so you don’t create a stagnant pool). Maybe there’s a log nearby you can balance on? Get creative and challenge the children to see what they can do.

Pooh Sticks

If your river has a bridge, this is an excellent game that can keep children entertained for ages and subtly helps them to discover things like air resistance, wind direction and speed, water resistance. In case you aren’t familiar, all you do is drop a stick each over one side of a bridge, and then watch over the other side to see whose stick comes through first. Challenge them to find different things to try instead of sticks and see what happens. If you have some paper and a pencil then somebody can keep score.


 Water play

For young children, just playing in the water with buckets, bottles and jugs is a great learning experience. You can demonstrate how putting some pebbles from the bottom of the stream in the bottle means that it can hold less water. Count the pebbles together, ask leading questions to help them to discover things and, if appropriate, gently introduce mathematical concepts like shape, volume, weight and measurement.

I hope that has given you a few ideas and shown how a really simple day out can not only be a lot of fun for everyone but also a great learning opportunity. Just make sure to take any rubbish home with you and leave the river as you found it as much as possible. Happy adventuring!

By Squished Blueberries


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