Category: Get Outside And Play

Don’t Wait; Make It Happen.

It’s really fucking hard to find time to connect as a family. Finding the perfect moment amidst the constant normal family happenings and also the laundry and the food preparation.. yeah, it can seem all too difficult. It takes conscious effort to spend quality time together and when you’re a big family and dealing with the extra challenges of autism it can often get shelved in the too hard basket.

So we’ve stopped waiting for the perfect moments to connect and have time together and instead we have just started creating it.

Once a week, usually on a Sunday morning we all head out for what we call our “Sunday family breakfast adventure”.

Working to our individual strengths, Papagirltribe plans buys the breakfast food and I pick the location. We go somewhere that we haven’t been before or haven’t been to in a while, usually within maximum 30 minutes from home. And it’s working really well… most of the time.

Granted, today wasn’t one of those days. It wasn’t perfect at all, actually. Beans talked, whined or cried the entire journey there and then on the way back she verbally stimmed really loudly which set off Wilding in the backseat who responded by screaming the entire way home. Oh and Beans also got her feet sandy and wet  which she’s often fine with but today this caused a meltdown, Sno got overstimulated by the sandy playground, Rara pushed boundaries hard and Papagirltribe was fairly sensitive sensory-wise too. And I’m pretty sure I bitched and whined a bit myself purely out of frustration.

 

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But hey. That’s life isn’t it? Can’t always or actually ever plan for perfect so we just gotta take what we can and try and have a laugh when we can and keep loving each other through it all.

I hope that our girls will look back on their childhood and see the effort their parents made to connect with them in a real way, amidst all the other stuff.  And know that despite it never being perfect and even sometimes when it was a complete and utter shitstorm – that we still tried.

Feel free to steal my idea, and let me know where your adventures take you and tag me on Instagram when you go (I’m girl.tribe).

 

 

 

When She’s Free, To Just Be.

Today it was just the two biggest girls and me. While Papagirltribe went grocery shopping with the two littles, I decided to take Sno and Raralily past the book exchange and trade in some unwanted books for some new reading material… and when you’re raising a family of book-addicts, it’s basically like our lolly shop. Then we stopped by the beach on the way home because I felt like getting a bit of sun on my skin.

Sno has had a tricky relationship with the beach. We’ve lived five minutes from it for the past 4 years but it hasn’t been until the last few that she’s been totally cool with them. In fact, her dislike for wet sand and the meltdowns it used to spin her into was one of the last factors that kind of pushed me into accessing a diagnosis for her. Anyway, I love taking her to the beach now.

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Off she runs, barefoot across the sand

She’s free, no constraints.

No trying to work out what to say, how to behave

She just focuses on the way ahead of her, rocks to collect, stones to skim

She can zone out while she sits and draws in the sand

Or sift it through her fingers.

She can make collections..

There’s no social nuances for her to decipher.

For a while it can just be simple, no pressure. 

Just free to be her.

 

When you’re living with autism in the family, you don’t often get many moments of that kind of liberation. Life is often rigid, routined, rehearsed. It’s tiring for everyone and it’s a daily survival game just to get through. On days that are seemingly easy, there are often unprecedented meltdowns which take the wind out of everyone’s sails. It makes you feel like you’re walking on eggshells and you try not to be negative as you prevent yourself from enjoying the calm placid moments, waiting for the next inevitable fallout.. but you do.

So when there are times that are free, times that are light, times that are easy.. yeah. They’re precious. When she is able to just embrace her innocence, no filtering required. The times she is able to be a child and just find enjoyment from simple things, rather than feel lost and confused or be angry and scared. Because these moments don’t come often amidst our crazy zoo. I take mental pictures of them in my head and I keep them close to me whenever I see her struggling.

Because at the end of the day she’s just a child, – a beautiful, gifted, amazing one –  and her life is incredibly overwhelming for her. It’s not her choice, it just is what it is. And you know.. it’s my job as her mother be here and offer her unwavering support during her toughest times and help her find her way and be brave enough to dance to her own rhythm, unperturbed. Because when she does.. it’s just beautiful.

 

Five Reasons Why Nature-Play Is Awesome!

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Our family is lucky enough to live in a beautiful environment; near the beach but on a mountain. We have beautiful walking tracks, waterfalls, beaches, riverbeds, creeks, wetlands and bush trails all within close proximity. CJ and I really make a conscious effort to  get our girls playing and exploring outside and here’s why:

  1. Children’s creativity benefits from an unstructured environment.
    When you take away the playground with it’s swings and ramps and climbing frames; you are putting your children into an open environment where they need to build on their creativity to find their fun. It might not be from scaling a ladder or sailing down a slide but that’s OK – it encourages them to use their imagination to work out different things that they can find enjoyment from. Suddenly a simple fallen branch presents a multitude of possibilities: it can become a fishing rod, maybe a wand, perhaps it’s a tool to use to make marks on the dirt or sand in. Fallen logs can become balance beams; stones can be collected and use to tell stories and shells can be turned into art.
  2. Playing in nature builds on resilience & problem solving skills.
    When children are placed in an unfamiliar environment they’re able to be safely challenged and manage some risks independently whilst still being safe: falling over or losing footing, scraping their knee, getting muddy shoes or pants. All these situations can occur and the way that children are encouraged to brainstorm their own solutions and find ways of coping can be a really useful way to build on a child’s resilience. They may then use these similar coping strategies later on in other situations. These tools are critical for children to learn and apply and being in nature offers children a fun way to learn them.
  3. Nature-play means you’re building on that Family Memory Bank.
    Do you think that children are going to remember that amazing day they spent in front of the TV watching a show over the day you as a family scaled a mountain together? I’m sure the answer is obvious. Exploring new environments together and sharing triumphs is a really wonderful way to make family memories together that your children are going to treasure for a lifetime. Maybe you could make a list of the places you’d like to go together: national parks, beaches, mountains, rivers, walking paths. Tick one off a weekend!
  4. Nature-play offers Sensory delights!
    I know for us as a family of 3 autistic people; sensory accommodations have to be taken into consideration when we go outside. However being out in nature together allows these areas to be slowly worked on or desensitised in a safe, secure environment. It doesn’t need to be rushed, it can be slow and progressive – and the child can lead the pace. There are so many sensory experiences to be enjoyed: maybe going barefoot at the river’s edge; perhaps smelling the flowers at a garden, collecting smooth stones by the creek, sifting beautiful white sand through fingertips, making art with fallen paperbark.. the list goes on.
  5. It broadens knowledge and builds on respect.
    When you’re playing together in nature you’re doing so much learning: wildlife ecosystems, discovering different plant life and fungi, wildlife, seasons, environmental history, indigenous history… And the learning isn’t just for the children: you may find yourself discovering things you never even knew you wanted to know about. Being out in nature also encourages children to pay respect for the environment they live in and encourages a sense of wonder and awe over the world we live in. Taking a moment to appreciate just how diverse and lucky we are to live in such a beautiful diverse country can only be a good thing and hopefully something we can teach our children to treasure for many years to come; from childhood through into being an adult.

One thing we have found really helps enhance our nature play is to be prepared and pack a backpack with bandaids, water bottles, a small towel, insect repellant, hats, snacks and wear good shoes – or don’t wear any.

So go on… get outside and play!

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