Routines That Change the Brain

In our brain, pathways exist. There are strong pathways that are frequently used, like a highway. There are weaker pathways that are infrequently used, like a hiking trail. And there are space for potential pathways, like through a patch of scrub. The strong pathways are those that we resort to most of the time, so if those pathways are negative thinking and self-doubt this will be where our mind first goes. This seems to be the tendency or default as a part of the human condition (at least in Western culture)

The best news is that we can change this with regular practice and there is one simple routine you can include in your life that has been shown to have very good results. Finding time to be grateful, be thankful or reflect on something good that happened during the day with others. I have heard lots of ways families fit it into their routine depending on their lifestyle and preference. Often families will go round the dinner table, taking turns at sharing ‘one good thing’ that happened for them today, no matter how big or small. Others wait until bed time to share something that they are grateful for from the day just past. Or perhaps you could fit it in during car rides. Even if it was as simple as the sunshine or the apple they had for lunch, these powerful routines can change the structure of the brain.  

Please share if you have something like this in your daily routine or perhaps this blog inspired you to try something. .

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Exhausting Days

Being a parent is a wonderful yet almighty task. We have so many days of joy and celebration but perhaps equally as many that are exhausting and deflating. Those are the  days that show our darker side, the ones where we see the things that we don’t like in ourselves. We may be far quicker to snap, find kindness far more challenging to give and feel a sense of disconnection to our children and others around. It just happens that Sunday just gone was one of these days for me, I am generally a patient person but I could feel it going out the window and couldn’t work out how to get back in control of my own ship. 

These days happen, sometimes it will be just one a month, at other times it will be weekly. Sometimes we will get a run of a few days in a row and some of us might even be amidst weeks or months in a row. 

At the end of these days, spend a moment or two to forgive yourself because these days happen. Show yourself some self-compassion and kindness, in the way you would to a good friend. We all have these days. For those who feel like it’s been weeks or months since they can remember it feeling any different, it’s time to reach out because it doesnt have to be like this. Lean on friends or family that will listen and understand, or find community supports or professional help. You’re not the only one and it really doesn’t need to be this way. 

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Safer Isn’t Always Better

Lots of people (schools very much included) think safer is better so they stop their child doing anything that has a clear risk, no matter how small. But if safer was better we wouldn’t take our children in cars. If safer was better, we wouldn’t take holidays. If safer was better, we wouldn’t fall in love. However, we do these things because we feel that the benefit is greater than the risk. 

For children, safer is not always better. By engaging in experiences that have elements of risk we give them the opportunity to develop skills to assess risk rather than rely on someone else, they experience trust and know that on some level they are responsible for keeping themself safe. We need to accept that our children will experience pain and hurt, so at times we need to give them space to try and fail - when the consequences are not significant. Of course, as their guardian we will constantly be assessing risk for them and ready to jump in if the risk becomes too great big but they need a chance, even when young, to know that they are responsible for their own bodies. 

Finding this balance is hard. It is something for you to work out over time but these experiences cannot be underestimated when wanting to develop responsible and independent children. Where can you offer a little more trust to your child as they explore their world?

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Dressing Kids Right for Winter Fun!

We all celebrate the glorious summer and the wonderful spring. We get excited about the change of the season and the transition from cold to warm weather. When it comes to poor winter, it is pushed to the side and merely thought of as the time where we wait for the warmer weather to return. But I speak to so many people who have so many wonderful memories of winter - playing in puddles, dancing in the rain or racing leaves down a stream. Let's allow our children to show us the joy of winter again. 

It can be stressful making sure that our kids are rugged up enough to go out in the cooler weather but as the Swedish say "there's no such things as bad weather, just bad clothing". If the Swedish spend time outdoors in temperature below zero surely we can deal with an Adelaide winter. The difference between and good and bad experience during the winter months can be clothing so below is a quick fire guide to the essentials needed to help you have an enjoyable memory-filled winter.

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 Base layers

Layering up is essential so that layers can be removed as the weather or child's body temperature changes. Base layers can be anything that sits below those warmer top layers however a good set of base layers can be priceless.  The best on the market is merino wool, whilst they aren't the cheapest, they keep the body warm whilst wick moisture away from the body. And, perhaps the best part, they can also be worn several times before needing a wash! They might set you back $30 - $50 unless you can grab some whilst on sale. We recently bought some from Macpac for our nearly 1 year old, but haven't found many other places locally that supply these for those under 2s. Base layers for children over 2 are pretty easy to come by and can be found in most outdoor stores.  If these will break the bank just stick to your basic layering (e.g. singlet, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt etc.).

Footwear

Cold feet is just not fun in the middle of winter but can be easily avoided. A decent pair of socks housed by a good pair of wellington (known as wellys in our house) or gum boots will do the job just fine. You can grab a pair from pretty much anywhere as winter nears. Cheaper ones are available from places like Big W and online at NEXT, if you are looking more local head to Ollie Ashenden Children's Shoes in North Adelaide. 

Headwear

Beanies are wonderful but often something that toddlers don't not agree with. Good luck is all I can say! If you can get your little one to wear a beanie it will help to keep all that heat from leaving their heads, if not try something with a hood. And it that's no good just go with the other options mentioned here and that should do you just fine. 

Between layers

Judge this one on the weather and remember it is easier to take off layers. Wearing general winter clothes will generally do just fine (e.g. long sleeved shirt, jumper, jacket) however having a fleece layer will provide additional insulation for those particularly cold days. 

Photo credit: Nature Play SA

Photo credit: Nature Play SA

Waterproof Top layers

This is what can stop everything else getting wet and therefore cold. Raincoats can keep the top dry but if outside too long in the rain it all drips onto the pants anyway. The best option for extended play in puddles, mud and rain is a waterproof onesie. These will keep all of the clothes underneath dry (and clean!) meaning it's a win-win situation!  We recommend staying local and grabbing a onesie (for 2 olds years and up) from Nature Play SA (also available to purchase and hire at Naturally Gathered sessions). Another good online option is Muddlarks who have a great range for younger kiddies as they provide pants and overalls so you can let those crawlers go wild. 

We hope that this helps you get out and take control of your winter rather than allowing it to keep you and your children indoors. Head to https://www.eventbrite.com.au/o/naturally-gathered-16062007485 to see join us in nature this winter. Whether it is with us or not, make sure that your children get to experience the joy, beauty and magic that winter holds. 

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Nature Playgrounds Can't Be The Final Answer

Nature Playgrounds Can't Be The Final Answer

What alternatives are there to nature-based playgrounds?

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All Play Is Created Equal, Right?

All Play Is Created Equal, Right?

Play is a vital and underestimated element to the confidence, happiness and resilience of the next generation. It's a space where children can learn, explore, use creativity and test different ideas. We delve into what play actually is and how we, as adults, can be supporters rather than interrupters of play. 

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