“I love the woods. It’s all my favorite. I love the birds and the bugs and the sticks. And I love trees. Willow trees are my favorite because they are so friendly. They’re always waving at me. And they dance.”
My little friend began to sway back and forth, dancing like the willow tree.
“It’s always happy out here. If I couldn’t play outside I would be so sad. And I don’t want the animals to die either. I don’t want any of them to die. Once I saw a dead squirrel but maybe he was just sleeping.”
She picked up a stick and took off running.
“Come on! I’m going to show you the fairy dust. “
I followed behind, stopping when she needed to examine something along the trail. We crossed a little bridge and she bent down to brush the dirt with her hand.
“There it is! See? It sparkles. It’s the fairy dust.”
It did appear that there was something shimmering in the dirt. The girl began to collect acorns, and quickly seemed to forget that I was with her. She placed the acorns in a pile and sprinkled some leaves over the top.
A few moments later I looked over to see her holding a worm in her hand. She gently ran her finger along the worm’s body as she quietly spoke to her new friend.
I watched her pick up some small pieces of bark with one hand while holding the worm in the other.
“I’m going to make you a house,” she said.
She carefully stacked and positioned the bark to create a house for the worm. To me, it just looked like a small pile of bark, but through her eyes, I’m sure it looked like a worm palace. She placed a few leaves on top of the worm house before putting the worm inside.
“Bye worm! I hope you like your house!”
The girl moved on to her next discovery, and the worm eventually crawled away.
This play in the woods went on for hours that morning. At times the girl would ask me to join in, or have something fascinating to show me, but mostly she was in her own world.
Children really need this time in nature. They need to play and touch and imagine and explore. Kids are sometimes not as gentle with nature as adults would like, but this is all part of the process.
When children are able to interact with nature through self directed play, they gain an appreciation for the natural world. They develop an understanding of how all things relate, and how they are connected.
When children spend time in nature, they learn to find joy in the little things. They are drawn to nature’s magic, and they often see things that adults have long forgotten how to see.
“Hey, can you bury me in leaves? I’m pretending I’m a toad so I need to be all covered. You be a toad, too. Cover up in the leaves.”
I transformed myself into a toad and crouched down next to the girl, covering both of us with leaves. We sat in silence for a few moments and then she looked at me with a big smile on her face.
“It’s the best. Out here is the best. I love it.”