We took Bee to Delamere Forest this week, our region's largest area of woodland. We wanted to take advantage of a lovely sunny afternoon and continue Bee's sensory adventure in the outdoors.
Bee still enjoys the very simple play of filling and emptying containers so I brought along her bucket, hoping this would push her to touch and pick up items that she wouldn't without a solid motive to do so. We'd been preparing her all morning, talking about going to the forest in the car, how we could collect lots of things to put in her bucket, count the trees etc etc. Our experience with Bee is that sheadapts much better to things if she's had a lot of preperation.
When we arrived we stuck to the 'all-abilities' path, designed for people with mobility issues or using prams. It's flat and smoother than the natural forest floor, packed down with gravel and stones. Yet even this easier path was too much for Bee at first, when I asked if she wanted to get out of the pram and walk she replied "no, pram".
So I changed tactics. Instead of asking if she wanted to walk, when she was clearly very concerned about the surface of the path, I focused on the bucket. "Bethany look at all the lovely things for your bucket! Would you like to get out and collect things for your bucket?" This time the answer was yes. Win!
I placed her on the floor and walked a little ahead, encouraging her to follow me, pointing things out as I went for her to come and look at. But nothing. She stood rooted to the spot I'd placed her, not brave enough to move her feet. The slightly uneven and loose surface was really bothering her. I kept trying with the encouragement until she started saying "mama, hand" and reaching out to me. At which point I relented.
|A flower Mama!|
We walked holding hands and as we went I tried to encourage Bee to notice the things on the floor as we passed; pinecones, flowers, sticks... Bee has a habit of not looking down as she walks and will quite happily walk straight off a curb and fall flat on her face.
Our first gather was a pinecone. I crouched down next to Bee and picked it up, holding it out for her to see and touch if she wanted. To my surprise she took it from me and put it straight in her bucket. Clever girl!
So we moved on, still holding hands. We gathered flowers, stones, bits of grass, sticks and more pinecones.
Bee began to let go of my hand a little bit when she saw something she wanted to toddle off to. She always came quickly back reaching for me but these little independent jaunts got longer and more frequent. As the afternoon wore on we could see Bee growing visibly more confident with walking on the uneven surface and willing to take more risks, like attempting a small slope by herself and crouching down to pick something up.
We found a lovely bench where we stopped for a sandwich, it was hot and we were all ready for a sit down. Bee had some of an egg mayonnaise sandwish and even now I'm still amazed by how well she's doing with eating solid food. We always expected to deal with tantrums and fussiness when it came to eating. All the literature we'd read on tube-fed children said we should be prepared for a child that didn't want to eat. But Bee couldn't be more opposite. She may only eat tiny amounts at the moment but my girl will put away almost anything you put in front of her! With the exception of banana and 'sloppy' food (yoghurt etc) as she doesn't like the texture, she'll eat almost anything. Certainly anything we eat.
After "num nums" we moved on, still collecting, until we found the dedicated den-building section! This is a great part of Delamere that filling with piles and piles of logs, poles, sticks... anything you can use to make natural dens. There were a still a handful built up, left behind by others and Bee very much enjoyed sitting in one and filling her bucket with the contents of the forest floor. Of course the den was a little like a playhouse, and Bee loves her playhouse!
The overall aim of our afternoon had been to enjoy the sunshine and try to increase Bee's exposure to outdoor textures, which we managed with great success. She was much more compliant that I'd expected (again me underestimating her!) and she'd experienced all kinds of textures. The only thing that really bothered her was the dandelions. I tried blowing a couple for her and trying to encourage her to do the same but she just wasn't keen.
I've been visiting Delamere with my own parents since I was a child and it felt like a lovely continuation to take Bee. She's a bit little yet to tackle the forest paths, the slope down to the lake or den-building but after the success of our first visit I'm looking forward to those days already!