We are super excited to welcome our friend Laura Brand, mother of two, Mabel (almost 4) and Peggy (2 years old), and author of ‘The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play’, as our guest blogger this week.
Laura tells us about how she tries to embrace nature whatever the weather and she'll even be sharing with us some helpful hints on joyful, Autumn crafting that you can do with the whole family.
"With all of the magic and wonder that is found in the seasons, I seek joy in each of them, acknowledging their unique offerings. Winter calls for hats pulled snug over ears, warm breath on the icy air, festive creations adorning the home and the smell of oranges and pine. Spring, perhaps the most charming of the seasons, enchants with hints of life, delicate flowers and pastel shades bringing relief from the colder months. This year Summer started early with the glorious hot days of May leading us up to the Solstice, when the tones and hues of our scenery shifted to bright oranges and vibrant greens while families looked for ways to keep cool with the kids.
Now, as we enter into the Autumn, a time of hibernation and harvest, we feel the subtle shifts of the darker mornings and afternoons on our bodies and minds as we start to “bed down”, while the crafting and playtime with our children becomes that little bit cosier.
Certainly I find Autumn to be a particularly nostalgic month for me, I don't know if it’s the memory of the new term at school from childhood, impending excitement for Halloween (which I have always loved) or remembering family walks collecting conkers or diving into piles of leaves. I am completely transported with the merest sniff of a bonfire. I find that the seasons can serve as the greatest inspiration for directing our play and creative activities, moving with the rhythm of our ever-changing environment.
Frugi’s latest range celebrates Crofting and Crafting, with beautiful clothing influenced by a life that is lived in line with the surroundings and all the beauty that can be found in the landscape, from patterns to textures and featuring some favourite animal friends.
As the colder months arrive I feel excited to craft by candle light in the kitchen or layer up and go exploring with my rosy-cheeked children, collecting natural treasures with my daughters Mabel and Peggy, dad and dogs in tow. It can, however, sometimes feel quite daunting on the days when we see the grey clouds and rain outside, sudden horror of the potential weekend cabin fever, TV-guilt and boredom induced tantrums.
With that in mind, I am going to tell you how I try embrace nature whatever the weather and include some helpful hints on joyful, Autumn crafting with your family.
Clothing can be an area of contention with my eldest daughter, as she starts to develop her independence and her own sense of style. Nothing can be too tight, no itchy labels, always soft cotton (thank goodness for Frugi!) and sleeves must be pulled out under jumpers (…same as me!). Team that with enthusiasm for a specific item of clothing that is spinning around the washing machine and getting out the door can sometimes take a while.
So before you think I don’t have moments of reluctance about going outside rain or shine, I can assure you I do especially when at the last minute everyone’s coats (sometimes clothes!) are off and they are asking for another episode of Paw Patrol.
Knowing the positive effect that getting outdoors has, not only on myself, but my family too, means that my husband and I are willing to compromise and meet the girls half-way in order to keep some peace of mind and get that much needed fresh air.
Choosing our battles wisely, the coats and jackets go into our trusty rucksack (or like this morning, in goes the entire outfit), ready to mark their moods and meteorological changes. We try to remain light-hearted and calm as we gently encourage everyone outside, sudden movements sure to have them retreating back into the TV room.
Welly boots are poised by our door always - the best footwear ever invented - also happen to be the easiest for kids to put on so having ours at the ready makes the dash for puddles or dancing in the rain, effortless and keeps feet dry!
If I think we might be scrambling around a forest or going to a playground I will try to encourage the girls towards comfortable clothes to ensure they feel as unrestricted as possible. Climbing frames, balancing on logs or crawling around to look for bugs, are all much easier when they can move freely. I note clothing, because having a sustained and happy time outside especially if the weather is a bit wetter or colder, depends on that kind of comfort and a little bit of preparation.
Here's what I pop in our backpack ready for our happy nature excursions!
If you prefer to opt for the warmth of your kitchen table for some rainy day play, then
homemade salt dough or a play-dough making session can be a great way to keep little hands busy!
The play dough can be made in autumn shades of brown, orange and yellow, offering a couple of themed cookie cutters, a rolling pin or natural loose parts; flowers, pine cone for stamps or leaves for printing. Adding spices like nutmeg or cinnamon will conjure the scent of the season into your home immediately.
Letting go of any expectations over your kids creations, allowing them to enjoy the process of it all rather than the end result, will mean a much calmer experience. Set them up with everything on their own tray or use brown paper over the table, to ensure the clean-up is a breeze - make yourself a cup of tea and choose a favourite playlist to accompany the activity.
Autumn is the perfect time to practice “slow”. By which I mean mindful, conscious action and focusing on taking our time to do things with joy, rather than do things fast.
If you are ever unsure about how to do this, then a mindful walk as family or alone, is a chance to be in nature with no agenda, no clock-watching and allowing the little signs and signals around you to guide your way - children seem to be masters at this!
If you have made sure to be comfortable and have prepared your nature-walk essentials, then this can be a day long activity… or simply a 30 minutes reset.
Nature makes simplicity easy when it comes to play, and my girls seem to be happiest engaging with water or mud; ice-block rescues with dinosaur figurines or bathing farm animals. Using a water dispenser with a little tap to add to their mud pies, slushing flowers around enamel pots with sticks, homemade nature flash cards or Scavenger Hunt printouts (we think the National Trust & Frugi downloads are fantastic) are all the go-to, get outside activities for us.
A lot of the creative projects I plan for the girls, or put onto my Instagram use natural decorations and tools. So one fun suggestion is to create a foraging list for your kids, either draw or write out the items you would like to bring home and then have them help you gather into a bag or basket. From acorns to moss-covered sticks or uninhabited snail shells, you will end up with an array of treasures to work with!
The foraging list is perfect to add an outdoor element to your kitchen-table “dough” activities and when used for craft projects, can be guided by what it is you wish to make. Last year we had a lot of fun making a pumpkin village for Halloween, some of the things on our foraging list included moss for the roof, little twigs for windows and bark for doors with a quick stop off at the local shop for “4 x small pumpkins”.
The children loved having something to work towards and I really enjoyed the creative focus. We did this slowly over the course of a couple of weeks, when we found the mood to be right and took our time with it, finally lighting up the candles on the eve of Halloween."
Using a nature-loving, foraging list and a cosy, salt-dough recipe, Laura has created a Frugi-inspired Hedgehog for you to try out with your little ones!
Our salt dough recipe is quick and easy, and the hedgehog are baked in the oven, in its lowest temperature for a couple of hours.
Combine 2 cups of plain flour, ½ cup of warm water, add a drop more water if needed, then knead and store in and airtight container until you are ready to use!