The best stay-at-home mama moments are often the hours spent with my children outside. Today my daughter begged to find an indoor play area, but ultimately we went to a tiny park where my children left the play structure to climb a nearby ridge. The ridge led into an undeveloped housing project of paved streets and empty lots. I followed my children up the hillside and we squatted to inspect mushrooms, then smiled at a terrier and his owner. Our amble led us to another small park where eight young boys played informal football with no adults in sight. I was glad to see them outside.
In his book Last Child in the Woods (which I reviewed here), author Richard Louv highlights how seldom children play in nature anymore, and how structured playgrounds do not provide the same kind of learning and stimulation as a natural environment. So many adults responded to his book by citing their own nature deficit that Louv wrote The Nature Principle to help adults reconnect with life in a digital age. How we need fresh air and wild spaces to refocus our minds and spirits!
My husband's former track and field trainer at the University of Oregon, Jimmy Radcliffe, has commented that the college athletes he trains today have played organized sports from a very young age but lack certain physical abilities because they haven't climbed trees and played freely as children did a generation ago. As a parent, I take this as a directive to give my little ones lots of unstructured time outside rather than signing them up for Little League or soccer teams. I'm not concerned about them falling behind in their sports prowess; there will be other sports opportunities as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.
In the meantime, I do what I can to get my children outside and into nature. I'll continue to seek out formal and informal opportunities to learn about the natural world, whether it involves bird feeders and butterfly habitats or bike rides next to the creek near our home.
As my daughter was falling asleep tonight, she asked, "What does a frog do when it gets mad?" She went on to describe a frog from an animated film she'd seen. I hope the next few years hold lots of opportunities for her to observe (and catch) frogs and other critters in the wild spaces around her.
Did you have a favorite natural place that you visited as a child? What natural places do you return to today?