"Slow down you're movin too fast gotta make the morning last." My Dad you used to sing that song to me when I was little, lately I've been trying to take it to heart. We are very lucky to have a county run park in our neighborhood. We go almost daily when the weather is good. Lately, I have been skipping the playground for some simple natural play. The kind of imaginary play-time I remember from my own childhood. Rocks became jewels, sticks were bejeweled magic wants, giant stones were cauldrons, mud became the dam in the stream around my castle. I have been searching for places to share this kind of experiential imaginary play with baby girl.
Today we picked the big wooden steps. A cool breeze off the water made the temps more enjoyable. The weathered wood created a fantastic but safe sensory experience. Of course I stayed very close to avoid any falls.
I was an observer throughout the 20 minutes or so that she played. By observing I made sure she was safe but I wanted her to have uninterrupted exploration that was completely toddler directed. I intervened twice. Once she was going to put an acorn in her mouth and I said "Not for eating". She handed it to me. Also she did slip once and fall backwards. She landed on her bottom but my hand was there to support her.
She found one of the large nail heads in the timber. It fascinated her. She explored it with her fingers. Tried to pick it up. Looked at it quizzically. I can only imagine what she was thinking.
Some purists of natural play would encourage the use of only natural materials. I'm more open and flexible. I think that certain toys can enhance the experience. We brought our stacking cups. She stirred with sticks. Put pebbles in them. Used the steps like a table to put the cups inside one another.
What captured her attention the most were the sticks of various sizes.
She had a great time exploring and playing. There was fist shaking, hand raising, yelling...all signs of a good time in toddlerville. In fact, when it was time to go it took some encouragement to leave her favorite sticks behind. We had to say "bye bye sticks". This is the beginning of teaching leave no trace. Leave nature as it was--untouched. Respect the wonder of the natural world.
On the way home we scoped out two new places. The top is a perfect clover filled patch of green under the canopy of the trees. The other is a platform for observation of a tidal marsh area. Happy natural play. Now go get dirty!