1) Dirt don’t hurt. As much as I love for my children to “get down and dirty,” I have to admit I’m very particular about stuff. I like things to be clean and organized. My tolerance for crud reached a new level this summer on one of our camping trips as my children played quietly for hours with–you guessed it–dirt. It, along with the occasional stick, rock, or leaf, can be soup, fairy dust, sculptures, and more. I was also reminded that kids don’t stain (though their clothes might!).
2) Sandcastles are best designed by a committee of strangers. By stepping back from the shoreline play, I saw that my 5-year-old doesn’t spring a leak when she doesn’t get her way with other children, and that my 2-year-old does speak up to get his way when he doesn’t have my leg to cling onto. Seems as though their self-sufficiency is best fostered by my backing off. Huh. Imagine that. . . .
3) Inside toys work outside. After much begging and pleading, my children convinced me that some toys were okay to bring outside. Once I let go of everything being perfectly clean (see #1 above), I let them take some books, arts and crafts supplies, and toys outside. Along the way, my kids developed some inner monologue about what they should/should not bring outside by asking themselves such questions as: “Will it get ruined?” “Will that be okay with me?” “Will it be okay with Mom?” and “Where’s the best place to play with this?”
4) Weeping willows (and beeches) are natural playpens. There were a few times this summer whenI found myself immersed in an interesting conversation with another adult without interruption. And, no, the kids weren’t asleep or under someone else’s care. They were simply hanging out with other kids under a large tree, pretending, playing, and using the wall of leaves to keep out the grownups. Yeeha to that!
5) Popsicles fix it. There was nothing that cured a tantrum, fight, boo-boo, or sugar-low faster than some sort of ice pop. Whether it was the convenient, prepackaged kind or my own healthier concoction didn’t really seem to matter. I also learned that if I simply handed them one without any warning, they ate whatever type and flavor they were given.
Jeanine is a self-described tree-hugging science and math geek whose love of nature, coupled with her absolute certainty that people, especially children, are happier, healthier, and wiser when they regularly spend time in nature, led her to establish Rhode Island Families in Nature. She loves to run, garden, bake, hike, and go camping, especially when accompanied by her husband, Ian, her 5-year-old daughter, Sierra, and her 2-year-old son, Devin. They live in Wakefield.