Colette McCartney was so moved by the attitude of the impoverished schoolchildren she met while volunteering in Thailand that she decided to start her own business back home in Northern Ireland.
I have worked and gained experience in various early childhood and holistic care settings around the world,” says Colette (age 38).
“I studied law at Manchester Metropolitan University and traveled for several years after graduation. During this time, I was living in Thailand, where I volunteered to teach English at a local school on the small island of Koh Tao—this is where my passion for practicing child mindfulness and meditation began.
“The kids I taught were born into poverty with almost nothing in their families, but they were always the happiest, most confident, grateful and down to earth little group of people.
“It quickly became apparent to me that their daily mindfulness and meditation practice in school played a huge role in their positive outlook on life. Seeing the benefits of this, I knew that one day I would like to share this with the kids at home.
“In 2019, I recognized a gap in the market for early childhood welfare services and forestry schools here in Northern Ireland and I knew in my gut that it was time to pursue my own business ambitions and ideas and I launched Holistic Kids.”
Holistic Kidz is an outdoor wellness company for young children that offers a range of services including forest adventure camps for school kids, outdoor birthday parties, teacher training courses, co-educational and outdoor learning programs, and wellness programs. and relaxation for schools and organizations.
Colette is passionate about the work of the Holistic Kidz, and what she loves most about her role is: “Knowing that we give kids the ability to put their technology aside, let go of their day-to-day stresses, and be able to let kids be kids. .
“Seeing first hand the benefits each of our services brings to children every day absolutely warms my heart and brings me much happiness.
“Through our innovative outdoor learning and wellness programs, we are committed to improving early childhood wellbeing in our unique way. My work is extremely rewarding and there is no better feeling than knowing that our services are making a huge positive impact on both our employees and all the children and adults we work with.”
The founder is thrilled with the Holistic Kidz summer 2022 offering, the company’s largest program to date.
“We have five camps across Northern Ireland that run weekly from July 4th to August 26th,” says Colette.
“Participants will find many exciting outdoor activities and adventures for children ages 4 to 12, including forest hikes, stream trails, wigwam building, tree swinging, mud bath jumping, handicrafts, arts and crafts on outdoors, courses to overcome nature and landslides. Adventure.
“We will have camps again at Barnett Demesne in Belfast and Portglenone Forest Park in Ballymena, and this summer we added Sundelwood Mountain in Coleraine, Redburn Country Park in Holywood and Gortin Glen Forest Park in Omagh.
“Participants of the Holistic Kidz program can enjoy the magic of the outdoors, where they will make new friends, learn new skills, build confidence and self-esteem, increase creativity and an inquisitive mind, and help develop essential problem-solving skills and independence. The benefits are endless.
“Back in March we launched our outdoor and co-educational programs for schools and it was a revelation to me, the number of children who came to us who touched the ground for the first time with their hands and I had one toddler who never sniffed flowers before joining Holistic Kidz.
“Being able to introduce kids to things I’ve taken for granted up until now means the world to me.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, mud jumping is one of the most popular activities on offer.
“Our kids love it — rubber boots or not — there’s no better way to get close to nature than jumping in the mud,” says Colette.
“Our outdoor mud games will not only take kids away from the screens, but give them the opportunity to enjoy fresh air, excitement, exercise and good old dirty fun.
“Mud games also provide many benefits, including helping to boost a healthy immune system; improving gut health, as it helps increase the diversity of beneficial bacteria in the body; giving children the opportunity to communicate and interact with the natural world around them; and helps children develop tactile skills through sensory play.
“It is an educational tool that can help children enhance creativity, imagination, independent learning and teamwork. It can also help develop construction, building, and problem-solving skills.”
The entrepreneur, mother of eight-year-old Suzanne, has made it her mission to change the way she thinks about outdoor activities in bad weather.
“The Scandinavian countries are considered the healthiest and happiest in the world, and one of the main reasons for this is that from an early age, children are taught outdoors in all weather conditions,” says Colette.
“Recognizing the importance of this lifestyle, I have made it my mission to adapt this philosophy for children here in Northern Ireland.
“We offer our popular forest adventure camps during the Easter, February half term, Halloween, and summer school holidays, as well as our outdoor study/co-ed programs and birthdays all year round.
“All of our five forest schools take place outdoors, in all weathers, and children can enjoy the many proven scientific benefits of doing so, including increased energy levels, physical fitness, improved mood and concentration, and running, breathing in fresh air, always guarantees a good night’s dream.
“As long as children wear appropriate clothing and footwear, there is no reason why our unpredictable weather in Northern Ireland could ever be a factor. At Holistic Kidz, we have a responsibility to ensure that parents help their children develop the mindset that being outside in the wind, rain, snow or sun is okay.
“It’s actually great to dance in the rain, or make an ice face mask out of the snow, or use the rain to create the fastest, wettest landslides.
“One of my parents recently told me, ‘Skin is waterproof,’ and it’s true. We hope to change the mindset here. Weather appropriate clothing and footwear is always recommended, as there will be plenty of exciting adventures and jumping in muddy puddles, all the things kids love to do the most.”
The Weekly Explorer Pass to Holistic Kidz Forest Adventure Camp is £120 per child and the Daily Explorer Pass is £30. For more information visit www.holistickidz.com or see holistic_kidz on Instagram.