A group of adults and children stand around a tree and smile at the camera

1st March 2024

SMILE Supports Single Parent Families to Enjoy Outdoor Spaces

For single parent families there are so many great benefits to gain from spending time outdoors – being active in the fresh air can improve sleep, blood pressure, cognitive function and physical well being, as well as reducing risks to your health.* It’s also a fun and cost-effective way to spend time with the people who are important in our lives!

One in eight British households do not have a garden** and research by The British Mountaineering Council (BMC)*** has found that people on the Living Wage are twice as likely to never visit the countryside compared to those that earn more.

The SMILE lone parent families project aims to change this by creating opportunities for lone parent families to get active, muddy and have fun while exploring outdoor spaces. Over half-term SMILE families met at Upton Country Park to participate in scavenger hunts, build dens, learn about bugs, enjoy hot chocolate and generally jump in muddy puddles!

Two young smiling girls and a toddler walk through muddy puddles

When one five year old was asked what their highlight was, the answer came back: “Jumping in deep puddles” and promptly continued to get covered in mud along with their siblings!

Racheal Peck, SMILE Project Lead, explained why it is so important to meet outside:

“We find the kids have a lot more fun and the behaviour is a lot better because they are outdoors in nature, and so Mums and Dads can relax more because the kids are just having fun running around and doing what kids do best.”

The BMC research also found that one in ten people feel intimidated to go into the countryside to take part in outdoor activities**. Many factors can influence this however meeting others we know in outdoor spaces creates courage to explore new environments.  Racheal said:

“The idea is that parents feel safe coming to outdoor places with us at SMILE, then next time they might have the confidence to come on their own and meet friends here, to carry on building family memories.”
A smiling boy walking and holding a clipboard

SMILE also joined Upton Country Park for their free Winter Wildlife Adventures. The joy and wonder on the children’s faces was evident as they made badges, learnt about huge moths, minibeast hunting and more.  This also provided the opportunity for them to interact with other organisations such as the RSPB, National Trust, BARI: The Bird And Recreation Initiative, Dorset Wilidlife Trust and the Dorset Bat Group and the very popular Dorset Dogs.

A boy and a girl kneel and stroke a dog
“Thank you all for another fabulous morning – so good to get out and have company.”
A woman and a boy sit smiling at a young girl sat between them. The girl holds up a drawing

With the annual SMILE Lone Parent Fair approaching in April, there are plenty of opportunities for families to get out and enjoy the outdoors.  SMILE also provide indoor groups to enable families to receive support and build up their support network with each other. However, more volunteers are required to assist with the running of these.

We need volunteer creche helpers for our weekly coffee mornings and for Regenerate, the monthly intergenerational meal. We also need volunteer pamperists to support us the SMILE lone parent fair in April, including hairdressers to provide free haircuts to both parents and children and nail technicians.

You can find out more on our volunteer vacancies page below. Alternatively call Faithworks’ office on 01202 429037 and ask to speak with Racheal.

Volunteer vacancies

Article references:

*Havard T.H Chan, School of Public Health

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

**According to the Office for National Statistics

Office for National Statistics

***BMC: British Mountaineering Council

The British Mountaineering Council

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