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Live happily ever after in the Great Outdoors this Easter holidays

PUBLISHED: 11:00 02 April 2017

Spending time outdoors is free and has many benefits

Spending time outdoors is free and has many benefits

(C) 2009 Jupiterimages

It’s the start of the Easter holidays - two and a half weeks away from the confines of the classroom for our children and a chance for parents to spend more time with their offspring. But the break can be a drain when it comes to keeping youngsters entertained without spending a fortune, writes Sheena Grant.

Den building offers hours of funDen building offers hours of fun

It can be a particular challenge for working parents, who have to plan ahead, pay for childcare or call on family and friends for help.

I’m in that category for some of the week and know what a struggle it can be, particularly if you don’t have relatives living nearby. There are options - I max out on sports courses (there’s a great football camp near me for £10 a day, for instance) - but many of us, me included, also book a few days off to cover part of the holidays too.

Even then, it’s possible spend out at theme parks and other attractions.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. Why not take advantage of the greatest adventure park on Earth where all the entertainment is completely free?

Yes, I’m talking about the Great Outdoors and if you think I’ve taken leave of my senses in describing it in those terms, think again.

As a child, I found the countryside completely absorbing. It was the ‘70s, so things were a little different as I roved around on my bike or by foot, befriending people with horses and ponies, exploring, bug-hunting, making dens, pond-dipping, climbing trees and generally interacting with nature.

Life for today’s children has changed beyond belief and as a result all too many youngsters have lost touch with the natural world. A 2013 study by the RSPB, working with researchers at the University of Essex, concluded four out of five UK children were not adequately “connected to nature”. That’s a real tragedy.

It’s been proven, for example, that people who play outside as children continue their love of nature as adults and are more likely to think protecting the environment is important.

More recently, the university’s acclaimed Green Exercise Team - led by Jules Pretty - has been looking at why the developed world’s modern “fairy tale” of increased affluence and material possessions has led to lifestyle diseases and diminishing contentment in which few of us seem to live happily ever after. Its Manifesto for the Green Mind advocates a 10-point action plan, including every child to spend time outdoors everyday and every adult being physically active every day.

What better time to start than Easter, the season of renewal, rebirth and, hopefully, warmer weather?

Here are a few free or low cost outdoor activities to try:

• Beach-combing (we went in north Norfolk last Saturday, collecting shells and other sea “treasures”).

• Go for a bike ride - make a day of it and take a picnic too.

• Visit a nature reserve and do some pond-dipping, bird watching or bug-hunting.

• Try some geocaching - you can borrow a GPS unit at the National Trust’s Dunwich Heath.

• Do some gardening - plant some seeds or make an insect house in a disused corner.

• Head out to the forest - this region has some of the best to choose from.

• Try some foraging and cook what you find.

• Solve some ‘nature mysteries’ - we found a collection of smashed snail shells in a bank after our beachcomb and concluded we’d stumbled on a song thrush ‘anvil’.

Whatever you do, enjoy the Easter holidays.

Share you tips via email or Tweet using #ThriftyLiving

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