gardening for mental health

Weeding out your Woes

I find spending time in my garden healing. I’m not a natural gardener; in fact I have managed to kill almost every plant I’ve ever owned. But I still try to grow things. I think sometimes the process is more important than the result. For example, my garden might looked like an untamed wasteland but the act of planting is satisfying in itself. I have begun trying to apply the same attitude to my writing. I find when I am ultra-focused on the end result, it takes the joy out of just doing it, and ultimately makes my writing worse too.

This week we have had our first spell of consistent Spring-like weather, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to spend more time outdoors, even if it’s only having a cup of tea at the fold up table in my back yard.

When I’m struggling to manage my thoughts, or to parent without snapping, returning to something simple that keeps your hands busy is always helpful. So, today I embarked on weeding my garden. The weeds had overtaken everything, in much the same way my thoughts do when I’m in an anxious state. Unrooting weeds from the ground somehow helps me to unroot patterns of unhelpful thinking from my own mind too.

So, while my daughter blew bubbles and had a biscuits picnic outside, I started stripping back all the unwanted growth. And when I did, I uncovered an opening tulip, some persistent violas and a thriving foxglove. And I realised, sometimes to find the good you have to weed out the bad bits. They might seem more prominent but when you reach the undergrowth, you can stand back to properly admire your garden.

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Activities for kids to do at home

Simple Things For A Sick Day With Kids

Generally if we spend an entire day indoors it happens because we’re stuck in and not because I willingly sign up for the idea. I like the idea of having old-fashioned days in the house with my kids where the TV is off and my sanity is still intact. My daughter was off sick today and we managed to have the peaceful day that usually only exists in my completely unrealistic parenting fantasies.

Here are a few ideas of things we did that kept everyone happily entertained.

  • Since it was Pancake Tuesday I made pancakes and then let my kids choose their own toppings and put them on. Giving them little choices always makes them feel more involved and more content with whatever we’re doing.
  • I read stories to them under a fluffy blanket on the sofa. Then they can read the stories by themselves to each other or to their teddies.
  • I let them watch TV (how shocking and what awful parenting! I’m joking. They like TV, so make life easier for yourself sometimes.)
  • They made pasta pictures. I just gave them a bowl of dry pasta and they stuck it to paper with PVA glue. If your kids are older they can make pictures out of it, like houses, etc. Mine are at the stage where they just enjoy sticking the pasta on in random patterns.
  • My daughter had made bird food in a yogurt pot at nursery and we looked to see if the birds had eaten all of it, which they had. She wanted to make more, which I had no idea how to do, so we improvised with oats, peanut butter and raisins. Apparently birds love grapes so we added them as a treat. (Hopefully this won’t result in untimely death for the local bird community.)
  • It was cold so we made hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, which for some reason, appeal to them more than regular sized marshmallows.
  • We played a game where you cut up little bits of paper or card into squares, your kids ask you to draw particular objects, eg, pasta bows, kangaroos, teapots. You draw two of each object on different cards so there are pairs of them. You can let the kids colour them in, so don’t spend time on fancy drawings; just something quick and barely recognisable will do. Then you use them as cards: you set them face down in a pile in the middle and each person takes one at a time. Whoever has the most pairs at the end wins.
  • They found a kids’ make-up set they got for Christmas that I had hidden since. To be honest, the clean-up was grim but it entertained them for a full hour, which is a new record. If you are going to do this, get your kids to do it at the table with a wipeable table cloth so you aren’t cleaning gloopy glitter off every surface for days afterwards.

 

The day was actually really calm, probably influenced by jazz I was playing. I find it really calms my kids down and makes them more focused on activities if it is quietly playing in the background.

I’m not expecting a repeat of today’s calmness any time soon, but it was nice to have a relaxing day indoors for a change.

 

 

Easy Ways to entertain kids

How to Entertain your Kids without Entertaining your Kids.

As a parent, sometimes I find that there is too much emphasis on kid-focused entertainment. I think it overwhelms the kids and the parents in equal measure. Sometimes when you leave your kids to do something simple it makes them more imaginative and it is when they come up with their best ideas.

One of the most memorable afternoons I’ve had with my kids was spent in our garden, which to be honest, is too much of a barren wasteland to be considered more than a yard. Gardening is still a pastime I need to pass some time figuring out. Anyway, it was a cold day, but as long as kids are well wrapped-up they don’t care whether it’s the sun or rain that is beating down. (Actually, they’d rather be coat-less and jumper-less in either case.)

I recently bought two second-hand scooters and a bike online, all for £30. They are still in good condition, if a bit faded, but I’ve never seen my kids react with such excitement to a gift before. We went outside and they happily scooted in circles for two hours, collected sticks and stuck them in a hole in the ground and played hide and seek in the only hiding place.

I sat and watched them, with minimal input, drinking lapsang-souchong and mentally transporting myself to my student days, spending an entire afternoon sipping tea on a veranda, without having to move, once. It was really peaceful, with no tantrums from them, or from me, for that matter.

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It showed me how we over-complicate our lives and how much our parenting culture expects us to provide parent-led entertainment for our kids. Sometimes they don’t even want it. Sometimes all they want is to stick a stick in a hole in the ground while you watch them, with a smile on your face because you’re enjoying a cup of tea at a more than tepid temperature, in one place.

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Here are a few other simple ideas of things to do with kids where you are involved, without being “the entertainment:”

  • Colouring in together. You can do your own drawing/colouring in a sketchpad while they happily do whatever they want to their own page. Kids get fed up with adults nagging them to colour in a specific way, sometimes they just want to do things their own way.
  • Watching them playing with a toy, handing them things they ask for and answering their questions without having to write the storyline for them. An added bonus is that you can also enjoy coffee at the same time.
  • Playing your choice of music for them, telling them who the artists are and letting them listen to their favourite song from the album as many times as they like. Goodbye, “wind the bobbin up.”
  • Getting your kids to gather up any library books they have, putting them in a bag with you and then returning them and picking out new ones for themselves. It makes feel competent, act responsibly with their books, and they think it’s a fun game too.
  • Create mini traditions. For example, Friday night is pizza night where they can add their own toppings. Or on Saturday mornings you go for a walk, followed by hot chocolate. Give them fluffy bed socks to wear when they get home. My granny used to do this and it was so simple but we loved it.
  • Give them a pound and let them choose a book or small toy from a charity shop while you have a look too.

Sometimes kids just want to be kids, and that means not having an adult telling them how to be a kid.