Spring, such a glorious and welcome season in our household. It’s so much easier to convince yourself that going outside is a good thing when there is sunshine, blossoms, and birdsong welcoming you.
I decided to ask my resident experts (Zoe, 3 years old, and Reuben, 6) “What are the most important things that people need to know about playing outside?”, explaining that I was writing an article for the newspaper. Right away Reuben spoke up, “Well, sticks are very important. They can be all sorts of different things, like a sword or a walking cane, and you can use them to build forts and stuff. They are good for fires too. And some sticks look like animals or letters or numbers, and some sticks are just interesting to look at closely.” Zoe (age 3) just looked at me blankly and said: “What are you talking about?” That was followed minutes later by, “Mom can I go outside and make some mud pies now?”. It is now 7:00 am and both of my kids are outside playing in the yard. This is a usual morning.
The reason my kids are playing outside at this moment, with unbridled creativity and enthusiasm (and no toys), is thanks to my Mom. When I was a child, she always encouraged my siblings and me to play outside in all weather and instilled in me a deep sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world. This is something I have been fortunate enough to share with my kids, and I hope they will pass on to theirs. But if you didn’t have my Mom growing up, it’s not too late— we are a part of nature, and connecting with the natural world around you is innate.
Remember that there is still a kid in you that wants (needs!) to make mud pies, collect sticks, watch the clouds pass overhead while lying on the soft, cool grass, and play hide and chase like the squirrels. Getting dirty, putting time aside, being an observer, using all your senses, and taking a deep breath are more important life skills than outdoor education skills.
“In Wildness is the preservation of the world” – Thoreau
I am looking out my window. There are 5 mud pies with pinecone embellishments drying in the sun. Reuben has sticks in both hands and is deeply engaged in an imaginary world of his own. I can’t wait to go and join them.
In turns out there was one more child to consult with about writing this article— the little girl inside of me. The one who loved to read books in the highest branches of a cherry tree, who intimately explored every rock, tree, and bush near her secret hideout, she who had extensive and beautiful collections of rocks and feathers.
What is your fondest memory as a child in nature? Start there… and let the adventure continue as you journey along with the kids in your life.
Zavallennahh Huscroft Young is a mother, co-facilitator at Kootenay Nature School, board member of Creston Kids Outside Society, and a professional musician when not outside.