The growing community of Countesswells is surrounded by stunning landscape and award-winning woodland. With a variety of trails suitable for walkers, runners and cyclists, and a mix of wildlife at every corner, Countesswells woods is a popular location for anyone looking to explore the great outdoors.
Now even the youngest adventurers can enjoy Countesswells woods with the help of Mandy Tulloch’s Mud Pies classes. Designed to give youngsters the chance to play outdoors and get their hands dirty, no matter the weather, the classes run during school term time and bring back the freedom of good old outdoor play in a safe environment.
With awareness around the benefits of outdoor play for children increasing quality outdoor space and safe play areas have been a priority from the very beginning at Countesswells.
The blossoming town is pleased to see local business owner, Mandy Tulloch make the most of the local outdoor space as part of her Mud Pie adventures. Here Mandy tells us a little more in her special guest blog:
“I’ve just seen a crocodile!” someone ahead of me shouts.
It is not yet 10.30am and I am in Countesswells Woods, near Aberdeen. Luckily, not alone. Dotted across the forest are fifteen of my bravest friends – all under the age of five and thankfully not at all scared of crocodiles!
They have come to Mud Pies, the weekly nature classes I run in the woods. We are exploring through the forest, carrying beach buckets, stuffing them full of sticks, cones and other treasures.
“Is it friendly?” I ask, catching up with a group of adventurers. “No, it’s not Mandy. It’s too dangerous here. Let’s go!” says a four year old girl!
We make a lucky escape and remember we have not yet checked if snake from the story The Gruffalo is at home so head over to a stack of logs left after a recent storm. He is not but that is ok as someone has just found three ladybirds on an old tree stump which is just as exciting!
Next stop is our camp area, where we chat about the things we have found, have hot chocolate and biscuits, play with toys, dig to make some mud pies and finish off with a game of hide and seek.
During the morning the children have spent quality time with an important adult in their life – not hurrying and rushing as we often have to do, found out about nature, been physically active, used their imaginations and creativity, played if not with then near other young children and – possibly the best bit of the morning – had snack outside!
I started Mud Pies nine years ago after people asking me about the wildlife they had seen whilst out on a walk and I saw a gap in the preschool activity market. I have loved every minute since – there is nothing better than exploring in a wood with children, not knowing what you’re going to find!
The key to being outdoors with young children is keeping it simple. Take a bucket or bag with you on your next walk to collect things, put old pots and pans out in the garden for some mud pies, make a den in the park or challenge your children to find five ways to play with a stick.
But my child is not that keen on going outside I hear you say. Well, take some bribes with you! Let them help pack tempting treats in an adventure bag or if they like gadgets, take an old camera, set of walkie talkies or torch with you. Meeting up with friends is a great way to get out the door and encourages children to have the freedom to play together.
But beyond the fun being outdoors is really important for children. Research is finding that time in green spaces is highly beneficial for children’s health and wellbeing and also for them to learn how to take age appropriate risks. If we want future generations to look after our planet they have to have a positive attitude towards it and that is formed when they have fun in it. Maybe making mud pies is more than just child’s play!
Mandy Tulloch is Founder and Principal of Mud Pies and runs weekly nature classes for two to five year olds and their adults to discover nature and play and explore outdoors. Classes are held during school terms at Hazlehead Park on Monday mornings and afternoons and at Countesswells Wood on Friday mornings. See mudpieadventures.co.uk for more details.