Since we live in the forest, the natural world is part of our everyday lives. As soon as we step outside our door, we are surrounded by the sounds, scents, colors, textures, and feel of the natural world. Last year, we created a children's garden for our kids to enjoy: a place that was all their own, but creating natural play areas goes far beyond creating a defined play space. The children's garden is a magical place complete with their own music wall, but what I didn't realize was the wonders of the stack of wood, or the fallen log, or the bed of pine needles.
More and more, children are moved from sheltered spot to sheltered spot, from the playground, to the store, to their home, to school, etc. These places are all wonderful, but they are each designed with a purpose in mind: at the playground we generally use the equipment in a predetermined manner, in the store we shop, at home we clean, live our daily lives and use the materials at hand for play, and at school we learn. When we provide a natural play area for our children, we are suddenly opening up the world to them. There is no predetermine purpose for a stick, or a rock, or that group of trees. How we interact with the natural world is suddenly up to our children.
At first this can be a bit intimidating to a child (well to anyone). When you first head out into the wild, your children will probably say things like "I'm bored, there's nothing to do, let's go do ___-" mine often still do! This is OK. Being bored is OK. No one comes up with their best ideas while they were busy with something else. Be patient. Find something else to do, and eventually something will happen: a stick and a pile of wood will become a canoe, a log across a puddle will be a path to another planet, and the texture of the bark will need to be felt over and over again. It will be messy, and there may be a few bumps and bruises, and perhaps a few bug bites, but somewhere in that natural play area, your child's imagination will soar.
And if you are lucky, you may even be invited along on the adventure.
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I shared at The Sunday Showcase, Taming the Goblin, One Perfect Day, The Imagination Tree
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