by Petra Vandecasteele – family travel planner, reviewer & hospitality consultant
Nowadays, all we hear is ‘No time, lots of stress’ when it comes to spending quality time as a family. Bonding as a family seems to become a rarity, let alone bonding with nature.
All too often, children spend their increasingly limited free time plugged into a play station, computer, cell phone or other electronic device. And what’s worse, this addiction to cyber space has replaced children’s much needed time outdoors. By allowing this to happen, many parents unknowingly deprive their children of one of their basic human rights: the gift of nature. Laugh if you wish, but being disconnected from nature results in physical and emotional imbalance, violence and mismanagement of natural resources.
How are we going to save the Earth – and ultimately ourselves – if we don’t give our children the opportunity to connect with nature, so that they can truly love and protect it? There are many green projects, but not enough is being done to enable children to actually FEEL connected with their natural environment. And, sorry to say, but this building block needs to find its origin in a child’s home, right from the start.
Too often, children spend time indoors with electronic devices while the parents stress about dinner time. One easy way to connect with nature (and friends) after a long day at school or at work is to start a ‘sundowner’ club. It’s really very simple: any participating parent can take the initiative (at any given time) to have a picnic or a braai in nature and encourage the others to join. The more, the merrier! From spring right through to autumn, I usually get together with other families at a lovely local nature spot. In South Africa, we are blessed and have many hidden gems in the city or in the countryside where you can connect as a family in nature and where children of all ages (and adults alike) have great fun.
I like simplicity. We meet from 5:30 -7:30 pm, bring our own drinks and food (inspired by a few tips shared via a Whatsapp group), together with some firewood, a blanket and/or a camping chair. The most enthusiastic light the fire and then the adults chill while the kids play, play, play. They climb trees, swim in the river, run around and even play music. Some help to keep the fire roaring while others enjoy their first lessons in cooking on a “bush” fire.
At 7:30 pm-ish we all go home. The adults are relaxed, the children ready for bath and bed. No dinner issues, no boredom, no stress. Only wholesome fun and fresh air.
And what’s nice is that the sundowner club concept has no minimum or maximum number of participants. Plus, it’s mobile. As long as you know the right places, you can enjoy your sundowner club wherever you go and whenever takes your fancy. Even if it’s just you and your family. It’s a mindset, it’s a way of living. And all of our routes include a fabulous sundowner time.
P.S. What was your best sundowner ever? Tell me, I’d love to know!
by Petra Vandecasteele