The advantages of outside play are well documented and in North Essex, there has been a significant rise in the number of outdoor groups for toddlers.

These groups have helped support parents and their children to spend more time outside doing activities like bug hunts, roasting marshmallows and jumping in muddy puddles.

Gavin and Christina Parmenter, parents of three-year-old Archie and one-year-old Alice, run BWild Adventures in Little Oakley.

Christina said to Harwich and Manningtree Standard: “Our little venture was born just over two years ago after we moved to the area from Chelmsford.

“Gavin has worked in the outdoors as an instructor for many years, so when I had to give up my career in print to raise our children, it seemed only natural to start something that we could do as a family.

“When we first set out, our focus was on survival, bushcraft courses and family adventures.

“We soon realised that there was a lack of outdoor activities for children of all ages locally, aside from playgrounds and a few local attractions.

“With all the beautiful countryside and wooded areas around us, we knew that we should be helping children reconnect with the outdoors using Gavin’s knowledge and background, and my creativity and love for nature.”

The couple run their business from Hamford View Tearooms, and it’s centred around the ethos of ‘Forest Schools’.

The outside play encourages risky play, dirt and bug searching, with various sessions run for under 5s during term time, which is extended to under 9s during holidays.

“Making this nature connection so young is key to their development both at pre-school and school, and actually, lessons learnt now can stay with them for a lifetime,” added Christina.

“When children are exposed to play like this regularly, especially from such a young age, it changes the way that they play and think: they are more confident, inquisitive; questions are more detailed and probing; they empathise with insects and animals by learning about where they live and what they eat.

“Their natural curiosity is just awakened.”

Gavin and Christina recently launched an after-school club in Great Oakley and special, extra-adventurous sessions at Thorrington scout camp, monthly.

Story by: Harwich and Manningtree Standard

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