Spending just five minutes outdoors can yield wellbeing benefits for both young ones and adults alike... and one islander is making it her mission to ensure as many families as possible embrace that fact.
Sophie Moulson (42) launched the first Nature Base session last summer, after working alongside local families for over 16 years in the charitable sector and education.
Sophie facilitated holiday clubs, forest school sessions, baby and toddler groups, children and family groups in the past, and she still works in training and development in this area.
Pictured: Nature Base offers different formats for its sessions and they all involve the outdoors.
She has a BA in Childhood Studies as well as advanced Forest and Beach school training, which she completed last year with a certificate in Therapeutic Work in the Outdoors. Her training has a particular focus on supporting those with Special Education Needs and childhood trauma through nature.
With a number of courses in eco-therapy up her sleeve, Sophie is now also studying for a certificate in adult mental health.
Her passion for the outdoors and mental and physical health led Sophie to launch Nature Base, where she works as the Outdoor Practitioner and Forest School Lead.
Pictured: "It became apparent post-lockdown that we needed to provide more opportunities for families".
“I have always had a heart for the wellbeing benefits of being outdoors and supporting families with opportunities to strengthen family connections,” she explained. “It became apparent post-lockdown that we needed to provide more opportunities for families, especially with the increase in anxiety and social gaps that children had experienced.
“We wanted to provide a relaxed space and ‘Base’ for families to explore and engage in ways that work for them. When my daughter with anxiety and additional needs hit school age, it was difficult for her to access some of the things she had loved in the early years as suddenly so much was based on my just dropping her off. Having a parent or key adult close by can not only provide quality time together, but also can act as a safe or support person to give the child the confidence to attend and participate in sessions like we do.
“We have also secured a number of grants and funding that has meant a number of our session have been free.”
Pictured: Sophie's family all get involved in the Nature Base sessions.
With Nature Base focusing on enabling families to get immersed in nature, it’s no surprise that Sophie’s own children are often around during the sessions supporting this ethos.
“I do refer to them as the 'Clean-up Crew' but they all do so much more than that,” Sophie said. “I have a 22-year-old in her final year at university who many have met during the holidays at workshops and our Christmas sessions, and a six-year-old daughter who is definitely my helper! My husband will often be around at the bigger or holiday sessions and normally be equipped with a forest school activity, and my nearly two-year-old will normally be found in the mud kitchen.”
Express asked Sophie to explain why we should all be spending more time outside with our families.
Pictured: Sophie's children, six and two, enjoy joining the sessions.
Playing in woodland and natural settings provides great opportunities for supporting all round child development, from physical exercise and exploring risk taking, like climbing trees, to self-esteem boosting challenges like balancing on logs and jumping off into the mud.
Children’s creativity is nurtured in using their imagination to wonder and explore in an ever-changing environment, often there is a new flower that has appeared or something has changed in a new season, a den to be found or made.
Simply playing and being exposed to mud and connecting with the natural environment increases serotonin levels and, as well as helping with self-regulation, it increases a positive mindset and mood, whilst supporting emotional wellbeing.
Pictured: Being in nature can help increase a positive mindset and mood, whilst supporting emotional wellbeing.
Children and adults can gain a sense of accomplishment, especially when exploring their inner creativity and Forest School, Nature Play and our Nature Connection workshops are great ways to boost self-esteem.
Studies also find that spending time cultivating a closeness to nature positively correlates with pro-environmental attitudes, ecological behaviours and develops empathy for the natural world.
Pictured: "Simply being still and peaceful or running and stamping around in mud together provides a special time of family connectedness."
Taking time out from our busy lives to stop, pause and wonder together can create pockets of precious memories and give us the opportunity to enjoy being in the ‘right now’. Simply being still and peaceful or running and stamping around in mud together provides a special time of family connectedness.
We have a range of families coming along, we have grandparents, aunts, uncles… whatever your ‘family’ make-up is, everyone is welcome!
Pictured: "Spending as little as five minutes purposefully in nature a day can bring benefits. "
Spending as little as five minutes purposefully in nature a day can bring benefits. The more time you spend noticing nature the more you will notice it! (Rewilding).
Grabbing 10 minutes to walk at lunch time, having a cup of tea outside in the morning to start your day, walking to school or looking out of your window at work or home and stopping to breathe and look at a tree, flower or bird together.
Many studies do find that the longer you can spend time in nature the better the benefits, and a study reviewing Nature Interventions found that this emotional affinity to ‘Nature Connectedness’ is stronger having spent long periods of time outdoors in childhood.
Pictured: The Nature Base sessions include hammocks, sensory swings and wagons.
We have different formats. We offer mid-week Early Years Nature Play sessions that are currently funded by the Channel Islands Co-operative so they are free, and we hope to secure some more sponsorship to continue these. These offer a ‘Base’ of activities for children to choose, explore and move around freely with parent/adult, coming together for a story, song or poem.
We also run similar monthly Saturday and Holiday Family Sessions nestled in St. Saviour’s Woodland, offering the feeling of freedom for children to run around and follow what they are curious about.
We also have workshops such as Nature Journaling, Photography and Stonework Storytelling as well as Parent only recharge and refresh sessions.
Pictured: "There is no pressure to join in with anything we do," Sophie said about the sessions.
All our sessions will normally have hammocks, sensory swings, wagons and offer a relaxed space to dip in and out, which works particular well for children with additional needs. Being in the outdoors benefits children with ADHD and autism, for example, as it offers less intense sensory stimulation and noise than an indoors environment, while also providing the natural health and wellbeing benefits mentioned previously.
The social demands of an outdoor environment are different. There is no pressure to join in with anything we do and, for some children, simply coming to a session, playing/swinging in the hammocks, using the cameras with their parent and not engaging with the wider group has been just what they need.
Pictured: St. Saviour's Woodland is Nature Base's main spot.
St. Saviour’s Woodland is the main ‘base’ we use and it’s just beautiful. We have a new love for Coronation Park, just a simple stretch of woodland which is offering such a rich enjoyment of a natural environment for families whilst they benefit from one of our island’s well cared for parks.
Long Beach, with the spectacular views of the sea and local heritage, has to be another close favourite. It is also an easy one for families with parking and toilets!
And lastly, there’s a hidden gem in Trinity! Although there are many hidden gems, this one is opposite the school, at the back of the playing fields. There is a woodland walk with stepping stones and streams to explore, although that one isn’t as accessible to everyone.
Pictured: Sophie and her family love to get "messy and muddy" together.
You will often see us, as we are a small family-run business, in the Nature Base Facebook ‘Stories’ out balancing on walls, pulling wagons, running on the beach and generally getting messy and muddy together!
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