Getting Kids Outdoors: The Photo Wander Wonder
My series of experiments in getting the kids out more continues on a beautiful autumn day in the English Lake District. We find ourselves in the perfect spot for getting a family dose of nature but the kids are unenthused and we’re all stuck sitting in a car. I know it’s pointless to suggest a walk but I really want to go for one. So, what to do? This time I split the group and suggest an activity I know will appeal to one of the kids. And forget to mention it will also involve nature, being outdoors and walking…
Anyone for a walk?
It’s the morning after Halloween and we find ourselves in the heart of The Lake District after a wonderfully artistic sleepover at Blackwell. We have no plan and nothing in particular to do. The kids are grumpy because they didn’t get much sleep and I am desperate to get out for a walk, but we are all stuck in the car.
“Anyone fancy a walk?” I ask.
I know before I’ve said it there’ll be no takers. I can tell just by looking. I could go alone but I don’t really want to. It’s more fun with company and besides, it’s my job to get these kids outdoors more.
I know forcing the issue won’t work. And I don’t want to bribe or pay to walk. I want them to come because they want to and I know a semi-recalcitrant trio in search of sweets, cakes or cafes is not a recipe for a great day out.
Divide and rule
I decide to target one child for some special one to one time. The sun is shining, the autumn colours are screaming and after the darkness of the Halloween night the light is perfect for trying to capture the beauty. And I know this will appeal to Cameron and his photography quest.
“How about a photography day Cam? Just you and me. I could teach you a few tricks and we could take some autumn pics.”
He doesn’t look too impressed but I can tell he’s swayable. And I know what might do it.
“It’s that photo exhibition and competition this weekend isn’t it?”
“Well how about we see if we can get the winning shot. It’s a perfect day for it.”
Nature through a lens
We head off along the shoreline. Photography can really sharpen your experience of nature when you use it to look closer. And with Autumn as our theme we find ourselves studying leaves and light, examining colours and reflections, zooming in close and exploring unusual angles as we make our way along a traffic free path on the Western shores of Windermere. Our questions heighten our awareness and guide the action.
“Have you noticed how dew sits on an autumn leaf?”
“Have you seen the colours of these leaf veins?”
“Can you see how the sun is shining through some of the leaves?”
“I wonder if we can find a conker?”
There is no ‘Are we there yet?’
And so we walk by lakeside, through pasture and woodland. And we stop. And snap. And talk. And look. And talk some more. About all kinds of things we don’t have time for at home. We walk for hours. We visit Wray Castle and have coffee and chocolate and cake, not because it was promised but because we are both starving.
After lunch we walk some more, all the way to Ambleside. We play as we walk, not games but with composition, camera angles and depth of field. We stop to talk about the story of a leaf, and end up making a film on the smartphone. It’s truly amazing what you can do these days with a phone camera, small fingers, a few apps and a bucket of patience. We shoot on the phone, talk visual story telling, shots, edits, transitions and favourite YouTube channels.
We end up walking eight miles or more, not that we are counting. There’s no asking “Are we there yet?” or “How much further?” It’s just a perfect autumn watch walk. And then on the bus home we hack together our story of a leaf into a little video.
A winning shot?
At the weekend Cameron edits down his shots and chooses one to submit to the photo show. It looks beautiful and I think it is the best. But I am not the judge. And I am biased.
He doesn’t win. But we have. We won the best prize of all. And it cost us virtually nothing, except giving each other the time. Priceless.
Have you got any favourite ideas for ways to get kids outdoors and more in touch with nature? Do leave a comment and let us know.