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©2018 by Homespun.

Free to Play

“We want our children to have a childhood that's magical and enriched, but I'll bet that your best childhood memories involve something you were thrilled to do by yourself. These are childhood's magic words: "I did it myself!”

{Lenore Skenazy, from Free Range Kids}

Our house looks out onto the open desert at the very north edge of the city. Some of the area has been designated as a national fossil bed monument, so it will never be built on. The wash from the Sheep Mountains flows down through it, and has created many wonderful places to climb and explore. We decided to take a nature day to do some exploring, climbing, digging, free play, and reconnecting with Nature.

That is not a road down below...it is part of the wash, but is nice and smooth to walk on where the water has washed all the finer rocks and sand into that flatter area. We ended up walking nearly three miles all around. Saw lots of animal tracks and droppings, so I was able to teach the girls how to identify them. It was right around 40 degrees, with a steady wind, and we had a lovely time in the cold, overcast weather.

If you want to give your children the gifts of good health and a life-long love of the outdoors, then bring frequent, unstructured, nature-based play into their lives. It will be the crucial first step in “growing up green!”

Just like her mama, Kenley always keeps an eye out for firewood. She had so much fun picking up a big armful of sticks to bring back for firewood. She ended up having to leave a few behind, because she picked up too many to carry the 1.5 miles back to the car. Liberty had no desire to help! (haha)

As a parent, you are the key to your children’s nature play; you are the “gatekeeper.” It is important that you regularly encourage their outdoor play and “nudge” them outside, away from the common electronic devices that mesmerize so many children. This past week, I finally took away the iPads and phones for good. They are all turned off and have been in the top of my closet for eight days now without being touched! The detox from electronics has been a process, but we are getting there!

If they are not used to playing outside, you may quickly hear complaints like, “I’m bored,” and, “There’s nothing to do out here.” Do not give in! Children have an incredible talent for making up play, but it may take them awhile to get going. You can set an example: be the first one to splash in the mud puddle, roll down the hill, or climb into the tree. They will soon get the idea — and then you can withdraw and let your kids play!

As they play outside more often, challenge your kids to explore your own yard and find things they have never noticed before, or things that have changed since last week. When they do, show genuine interest in their discoveries. And do not fret if their play causes minor damage to your plants; it is a very small price to pay for good play!

I have never had an issue with getting them to play in the outdoors, as our children have always been so enthralled with Nature and being outdoors. Though, I did deal with this indoors at first - and still do at times - but it is SO much better with each passing week since we have started this journey towards a device-free home. It is my consistency that is key to their success, because if and when I give in and hand them a device, it sets us back a week or two in our progress. This is a process for ME as well, and one that I will continue to be diligent in!

We found some of the most interesting sediment layers and nooks and crannies that water has carved into of the earth. We found some ravines that we plan to go back and explore on our next day out there.

“Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming.”

{E.O. Wilson, in The Naturalist, 1994}

After we spent several hours exploring the crevices and wash in the windy cold, the girls decided it was time to go home for some hot chocolate and tea with their dolls. Liberty had hot chocolate, while Kenley and I opted for chai with honey. Marshmallows on the side and lots of conversation with their dolls, while they warmed their tummies with hot drinks and oatmeal tea cookies.

Kenley wanted to finish her first sewing project, that she received for Christmas, so she sat with me while I worked on the computer.

All finished! She did a fantastic job.

This sweet girl is so proud of her hard work in creating something beautiful for her room.

After lunch of soup and homemade bread, we had quiet time, which we are just beginning to initiate. We are still in the process of learning what it is to be quiet for a time, and to allow our bodies a period of rest after a busy morning. After about 40 minutes, I noticed it was REALLY quiet - unusual for these two! When I peeked over the wall into the playroom, this sight warmed my heart! I hope that they will always find such calm and interest in reading, as I do. So far, so good...