They come outside single file.
“This is NOT a playground, this is a garden” yells out one of the teachers.
“Stop jumping in the puddles.”
“This is a time for listening, not playing.”
I think they misunderstood the purpose of this Outdoor Nature Play Space. It IS a playground meant to be appreciated by using all five senses. I encourage you to stop and smell the proverbial roses, feel the dirt squish between your fingers, hear the breeze in the foliage, see the verdant spaces to run through and taste the food growing from the earth.
Be wild children. Explore every nook and cranny; go outside and get dirty.
The children are fidgety and excitable. We fill their hands with life and get to watch them grow! What a gift!
“Did you see my strawberry?” asks one child proudly pointing to the plant nestled in the ground. I say I think it is very happy planted there.
Some children have never worked the soil with their hands. They can be apprehensive about getting dirty. They have never known the joy of connecting to nature in such an intimate way. They have never seen food grow. One child comes up to me and mischievously whispers “I have planted four today”. I think to myself I hope this leads to a lifetime of more.
One class was acting up and would not be able to attend. We tried to encourage the teacher to allow them into this sacred space. Places like this are meant to calm and heal. Nature Play Spaces make sense of the chaos we all experience in modern life. They were not allowed to come. They were kept in their classroom, trapped between four walls and expectations they supposedly were falling short of.
Another little one came to visit with his Aide in tow. She labelled him and limited him with regurgitated medical jargon and conversed over his head as though he was not there. He was the one who was present. He oohed and ahhed and took it all in. He connected with each of us and radiated as he wandered down the paths smiling. He knows what we know, maybe more.
I want to make a suggestion. Dear Grownups who play such influential roles in our children’s lives learn how to play again. You have forgotten what it is like to be children. They are not meant to be quiet and still. They are not tiny adults, they are children. Learning does not always come from a structured classroom or a book. Sometimes it is an experience that will last a lifetime if they are allowed to be present. Let them be wild, and let them be.