We went to the park this morning to meet the children’s grandmother and great-grandmother. It was a beautiful summer morning made better by being together with four generations of people we love! The playground was bustling with children running feverishly from activity to activity. My children participated wholeheartedly in the slides, monkey bars, and teeter totters. The gross motor activities were great for my boys, who enjoyed testing their agility on the rock wall and pushing their limits by daring themselves to run the steep slide by themselves.
What I noticed about my children is that they were not engaging in activity at the same pace as the other children. They were content to stand aside and watch another child race past and down the slide. They were happy to observe another child use the spinning chair first before deciding to try it themselves. Some may view this as an inability to engage with other children. I see it as a healthy connection to their inner voices. They are already observing and interacting with their environment.
Less than an hour into our visit, my eldest was drawn to a small creek that ran through the shade of an old willow tree alongside the edge of the playground. The buzz of a gas powered edge trimmer held by a man wearing protective ear and eye wear was working it’s way along the opposite bank. I tried to redirect his desire to head to the creek. When the worker had made his way down near the end of the creek, I allowed my son to play in that area. He was so happy, so much more engaged. It wasn’t long until his younger brother and sister came to join him. They were still observing and interacting…but this time it was with the rapids, the plants, the water, the crayfish and the frogs. They befriended some (much older) children who were catching crayfish upstream, taking a peek at their latest catch. They fell in the water and got muddy. I heard many other parents and caregivers distracting their children away from the creek, worrying they would get hurt, wet or dirty. Isn’t this what childhood is all about? Risk taking to build self-confidence? The learning my children had in that creek was of far more value to me. Especially as they coaxed their grandmother under the footbridge to check out the huge crayfish they found down there! What a beautiful moment. They were drawn to the natural space. They were happy to be muddy and wet on a hot day. And it wasn’t just the water drawing them in, since following their creek stomp, we headed over to the splash pad where again they stood mesmerized by the flurry of activity around them. I don’t think my three year old went in the water, he seemed content to run around the outside of the concrete pad splashing in the puddles. I have to admit that a rocky stream with critters seems much more appealing to me than water jets spraying at eye level in unpredictable ways.
I’m so pleased to be raising children who value nature and unstructured play! I am satisfied with their desire to play in the shady creek instead of the sun drenched desert-like play park. I admire their ability to follow their hearts and sources of joy rather than worry about trying to fit in. I want to preserve that for them for as long as possible. In all honesty, this is what I wish for myself…