After much thought and careful planning, Milestones, alongside Youth Action Wiltshire, launched into their Summer activity programme at the end of July. It was wonderful to welcome young people back on to our reserves, even with the many restrictions and procedures that we had to put in place.
With wellbeing as a key focus for the young people involved, we were giving them the opportunity to have time away from home and a sense of independence, as well as a chance to socialise and play; all in the heart of one of our delightful nature reserves. We provided a range of activities, depending on the location. These included shelter building, Kelly kettles, pond dipping, mini raft making, woodland walks, bug hunts and the ever popular hammocks; who wouldn’t want to relax in a hammock in a beautiful shady woodland on hot Summer days!
The groups that we were working with were small and this enabled us to have the time, space and capacity to dedicate attention to each individual. Consequently, we adapted games and activities to engage everyone and went ‘with the flow’ of the play in each group. The value of play in children’s and adults’ lives is now well documented and having time to play can benefit both physical and mental health. Play also offers children the chance to ‘work through’ and make sense of the world around them, something that is vital during the time of this pandemic.
Each of our participants had different experiences from the lock down and the continuing crisis and it was inspiring to see how they responded to being out in nature again. One parent was delighted when her daughter returned from a day and sent feedback:
“C hasn’t stopped chatting about it! We really appreciate it so much – she has been so isolated lately and today has bought back the C I remember.”
The willingness with which the young people engaged in the activities and became absorbed by the natural world around them reflects the value and importance of being outside amongst nature and socialising in a positive environment. Each day passed quickly and everyone wished that the time could carry on. The positive feedback reflects the need, the value and the enjoyment:
“This is so lovely, I don’t want to go home, can we camp out?” (participant)
“I was so anxious about coming but I’m having a really great day!” (participant)
As we reflect on the weeks of summer, we are so pleased with the success of the activities and are looking forward to working with our school groups again in the knowledge that we can create opportunities for addressing young people’s wellbeing through the continuing difficult times of the pandemic. Their wellbeing and long term mental health is crucial for all of us.