Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden is a wonderful place for mindfulness and family fun – Hayley Matthews
The doctor gave me some advice recently to go for a mindfulness walk each morning. Think of nothing, and just walk.
Take in the sound of the birds, the feel of the wind, the sight of the leaves on the trees, just anything that keeps you in the present.
I remember thinking how good advice it was but how difficult it can be to put in place. So I've been trying to think of things to do with my boys during the February holiday that can incorporate some mindfulness.
When I suggested the Botanic Garden to my children, they were excited. Both love to feed the squirrels, pigeons and other birds you'll find hanging about, so my suggestion went down really well. We got four bags of unsalted nuts to hand out, made a picnic and dug out our woollens.
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When we arrived, the lovely young girl at the desk was telling us about the new things that were there (I won't spoil it for you, you can find out for yourself). She also told us about an exhibition and how there was a team doing kids’ “seeker” activities with mention of a bug search. That pricked our ears and so we were right off to help find all those beasties and bugs.
We walked up the hill towards the activities but spotted the cakes and hot chocolates from the steamy cafe window. The weather was so cold but sunny so we decided we'd earned a hot chocolate accompanied by a dark chocolate and avocado sponge.
It was just what the wee one, who had been asking for a hot chocolate since 11am, needed. After we'd warmed our cockles, we walked over to the activities and were greeted by Matt who was brilliant with the kids. His knowledge and enthusiasm should at the very least see him awarded employee of the month.
He showed us a crawling tray of wonders from the pond and pointed out the leeches, larvae and fresh water prawns. We were amazed by all the little creepy crawlies, however, when he went on to tell us about the badger sets that live in the garden, we were even more amazed.
He pointed out little patches of mud that they'd burrowed. Apparently badgers are incredibly tidy animals who go around clearing up all their twigs and leaves. They sound like the perfect garden guests and I'd gladly have them round our bit to tidy up the garden.
Matt gave us a seekers board and said how it's great to get the kids interested in nature. I agreed and mentioned we were doing our best to get away from technology, taking on more mindful activities.
It really made the visit special and memorable and the boys loved it. Our timing was perfect because, just as we finished our seekers board, we saw lots of squirrels, obviously wanting their lunch.
My eldest was keen to get one eating nuts from his hand, however they weren't tame enough for that. They were more the grab, run and eat-on-the-go kind of squirrels, a bit like myself.
As we left, the rain started so we'd timed it all perfectly, a perfect finish to a perfect day. I’m grateful we have such a wonderful, beautiful place to spend time with my favourite people.