In the words of Thomas Berry, “I believe that teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.” To that end, I have worked hard to provide my kids with the best possible experience in nature. Despite my best intentions, in the these last years of taking them outside rain or snow (which is often the case in Michigan), I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
Thanks to our concentrated time spent in the wild (just keep getting out there!), and with the the help of some incredible mentors, we have been experiencing much more authentic, connected time outside. In no way do I have it all figured out, and I am always striving to support my childrens’ innate abilities to tune up with the wild, but here are some strategies that hindered, instead of enhanced, our time as a family outdoors:
Yep I have free-range chickens, but couldn’t seem to apply that same philosophy to my own children. I love being there to express wonder or to encourage inquiry-based learning, but I’m learning to balance that against my daughter’s need for breath and space in nature.
I LOVE so many of the nature-inspired art projects, journaling and scavenger hunts that are out there for kids. However, now I always try to start our time outside with unstructured play. I’m in no way saying there is not room, time or value in any of those activities (we still incorporate those into our learning), I just feel that my three year old seems most engaged and in the flow when she is initially able to move through the landscape in a less-directed way.
3) Relying on Equipment
With my first child, I was inundated (and thankful for) items from my older cousins. We inherited strollers, wraps and slings for every day of the week. The result was that my daughter’s natural movements were restricted. Ditching the wheels meant we weren’t confined to the pavement. And yes, I know I’m talkin’ blasphemy now, but it was amazing what happened when we started carrying my daughter unaided. We grew stronger, and slowed way way down. Any child over six months who is not strapped in, will definitely want to get down to explore – so we did.
4) Ignoring Their Rhythms
You know that moment in the woods when you think you are lost, but instead of staying put or turning around, you just push on? Yeah well, I used to experience a feeling sort of like with my oldest daughter when we went out. I would always stay that extra ten minutes, or had us do that one last thing that pushed her over the edge. It took practice and intention to sync up and recognize when she hits her limit and needs to regroup.
5) Having Expectations
Ahhh, this one still gets me from time to time. The adventure an adult is envisioning does not look the same in the mind of a child. I really don’t think kids have an idea of what they are going to do in nature, and honestly it’s our expectations of how the day should or could go that can set us up for failure. Success for me now is about getting two kids dressed and out the door. Whatever happens after that is icing on the cake.
I would love to hear what you’ve learned on your wild adventures. Do share!