If there’s one thing that is universally true about toddlers, it’s that they like to get messy! Be it playing in the sand, splashing in puddles or digging in the mud, most children are happiest when they are given the freedom to explore and create without the constraints of keeping clean and tidy. This aspect of play is so important for a child’s development of both confidence and independence.
Joseph is 18 months old, full of energy and undoubtedly the happiest when outdoors. Yet, living in a city means that, other than parks and green spaces (which we are lucky to have a lot of in Glasgow), there isn’t much in the way of outdoor play that feels totally safe and secure, while offering the freedom to learn and play at the same time.
Last week, however, we discovered the wonderfully charming hidden gem that is the Children’s Wood.
Tucked away in the west end of Glasgow within North Kelvin Meadow, this magical green space is something of wonder for adults and children alike; with its hidden trails, mud kitchen and fire pit to name a few highlights, the wood is something reminiscent of any bildungsroman storybook of adventure and excitement.
The land here has been saved by campaigners after a five year long battle with various developers who have attempted to build housing on this “surplus space”. Eventually, with the aid of the Scottish government, the land was saved and returned to the people of the community: the back story is as heart warming as the site itself.
The Children’s Wood is so much more than just a space to play and has been used within projects to help tackle childhood obesity, loneliness in the elderly community and also as a space for refugees in Glasgow to learn about the city in a unique and diverse way. The wood also lends itself to research within Glasgow University’s psychology department, in projects that show the effects of natural environment on concentration with positive results.
Joseph and I went along on a Friday morning and met with a few other parents and children, who run sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays. This is a totally free and open space to use whenever you please, at any time.
We found the group to be relaxed, informal and totally welcoming; the lady who runs the group speaks with such passion for the space that you can’t help but be inspired. Joseph was in his element – he ran straight towards the mud kitchen, filling pots and pans with mud and leaves. We had fun exploring the trails through the trees and swinging on the tire swing, riding in the wheelbarrow and escaping the rain in the wooden teepee. There was also an area to build runs for wooden balls which all the children seemed to enjoy working on together.
At the end of the session we sat and warmed ourselves by a small fire; the children were given sticks to roast marshmallows and the adults popped popcorn. We sat; tired, dirty, cold and yet completely happy, enjoying the small things nature has to offer like the smell of the damp earth beneath us and the sound of the rain on the tarpaulins overhead – a truly magical moment that cost nothing.
The Children’s Wood runs many other events too, such as theatre productions and learning sessions and there is also a volunteer scheme you can get involved in. Visit their website or Facebook page for the latest updates and news.
If you’re looking for a totally different way to entertain your wee ones, I can’t recommend the Children’s Wood highly enough – just make sure you dress appropriately for the weather!
This space is a peaceful escape in the heart of the city that should be treasured, respected and celebrated. By ensuring this space is valued and well used, it opens up the potential for more such spaces to be saved all over Glasgow.