On an almost balmy February afternoon we took to the woods in search of adventure. Our rag-tag group bounded into the nature preserve behind Pine Grove on the lookout for a perfect place to climb trees and stumps, build and explore. Soon enough, we discovered a clearing with logs,
stumps and a sense of mystery as the children have never been “off trail” in the preserve before. Immediately, you could feel the energy change as the kids took in their new surroundings. After a quick review of the boundaries and rules, we set them free. With a wild yell, the children burst into activity.
One group of children discovered a huge fallen tree and began walking up and down it practicing their balance. Another child cried out that he discovered an animal burrow. Others tested their physical abilities by climbing stumps and jumping off logs. A huge fort seemed to spontaneously appear, the efforts of some children dragging logs, sticks, and bark through the woods to create the structure. “This is so fun…and so dangerous!” shouted one child perched atop a fallen tree. He then took a mighty leap off the log and fell joyously into the snow below.
While this may seem like a typical day of outdoor play, the truth is that many children today do not get to experience the feeling of free play in nature. Recent studies have shown that children who are denied playtime in nature are more likely to develop fine and gross motor delays, ADHD symptoms and a lack of appreciation of the natural world, to name a few. Young children are now expected to sit for longer periods of time in school, rather than moving their bodies as nature intended. So, our classroom has decided to address these issues by integrating “adventure play” time into our weekly schedule. And, judging by the looks on the children’s faces, as they collaborate, create, and explore together in nature, it’s just what they need to be doing!
“The child, more than anyone, is a spontaneous observer of nature.”