Updated: Sep 20, 2021
When we grow up, so much of the wonder and sense of adventure we possessed as children is lost. Hours spent out of doors give way to hours spent inside, often looking at a screen, while grass-stained knees, daisy chains and pockets full of collected pebbles become something reserved just for our own children and grandchildren. And yet, we all know that this child-like enjoyment of life’s little things is important for our wellness as adults too.
Which is why, over the past few weeks, we’ve all naturally gravitated back to these simpler activities, reclaiming them for ourselves to enjoy again too. But what now, that many of us are slowly easing back into a more normal way of life? So that connection’s not lost, we’ve gathered together a list of ten simple activities that’ll form our must-do list for the months to come.
1 Stargaze Summer’s (mostly) clear skies make it a perfect time to stargaze, so grab a blanket, a cushion or two for your head, and a flask of tea to keep your warm, and spend an hour under the stars before you head to bed, picking out familiar constellations. You don’t need a telescope, although a guide book will add new meaning to the sky above you, while city-dwellers can use apps like Skyview and Star Rover to see the stars beyond the light pollution.
2 Spend a night under the stars Do you remember the thrill of being allowed to camp out in the garden when you were young? Sleeping outside adds a little adventure and magic to the most ordinary of things, and nothing compares to waking up with the dawn chorus. All you need is a garden, a sleeping bag (or a couple of duvets) and maybe a hot water bottle. You don’t even need a tent, so long as you pick a dry night and don’t mind a little dew in the morning.
3 Cloud-watch The daytime equivalent of stargazing (and easier to do if you live in a city), try seeing a cloudy sky not as a blot on the perfect, sunny summer’s day but instead as an opportunity to stop and take a moment. Whether you imaginatively pick out the shapes created by the clouds or you’re more meteorologically-minded and want to put a name to the formations you see, for a little while, your mind can find peace in such a simple activity.
4 Make your own compost Any gardener will tell you that compost is the life and soul of a garden and that creating your own is the single greatest thing you can do for your plot. And, like most do-it-yourself, starting-from-scratch things (such as baking your own bread), it’s incredibly rewarding to watch grass clippings, vegetable peelings and shredded newspaper turn into rich, crumbly compost. Creating a compost heap is simple and achievable too – you can even make do with a pile in a tucked-away corner of your garden. Just be sure to add a balanced amount of fresh, ‘green’ waste and dry, ‘brown’ things to your heap, and that you turn it regularly.
5 Build a fire So long as you do it safely and you don’t upset your neighbours (make sure the wind is blowing in the right direction and they don’t have their washing on the line), there’s not much so primally thrilling as building a fire. It’s also a great excuse to gather your family around – without screens – to toast marshmallows, tell stories and maybe even get the guitar out.
6 Cook outside Taking things a step further than marshmallows, cooking outside over flames is not only an exciting change from the norm, but it lends flavours to food that electric and gas cooking simply cannot. You don’t need any specialist equipment either – jacket potatoes can be easily baked when wrapped in foil and nestled in the white-hot coals of a bonfire, while flatbread dough can be wrapped around sticks and twizzled over the flames to make Danish campfire bread, or Snobrød.
7 Notice nature The daily walk that most of us are now taking is a great opportunity to simply notice more. It could be a new wildflower that’s popped up since yesterday, the gradually unfurling leaves on trees or the year’s first sighting of a swallow. And, just like stargazing and cloud-watching, knowing what it is that you’re seeing can add a whole new level of appreciation, so invest in a pocket guidebook or try an identifying app like Candide.
8 Create natural art From sculptures made out of balanced rocks to pebbles displayed in the style of Jim Ede and Andy Goldsworthy to wildflowers pressed between the pages of a book, there is art to be found in the objects brought home in pockets, and serenity to be found in the processes of both collecting and arranging them.
9 Ground yourself There are all sorts of articles and studies out there about the science of grounding, but when it comes down to it, all it takes is slipping out of your shoes to enjoy the connecting, calming benefits. Whether you’re feeling the grass between your toes as you walk through your garden or cool silt while paddling through a stream, experiencing the outdoors with bare feet will put you in touch with not just its sights, sounds and smells, but the way it feels too.
10 Climb a tree Swing from a makeshift rope, sit on a branch, tight-rope-walk across a fallen trunk…see a tree through the eyes of a child – an adventure waiting to happen.
Five books to help you reconnect • ‘The Almanac: a seasonal guide to 2020’ by Lia Leendertz • ‘Do Wild Baking: food, fire and good times’ by Tom Herbert • ‘Microadventures: local discoveries for great escapes’ by Alastair Humphreys • ‘Fforest: being, doing & making in nature’ by Sian Tucker • ‘The Cloudspotter’s Guide’ by Gavin Pretor-Pinney