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What's Up Magazine

Wild Child

Apr 04, 2014 09:52AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Jenny Houghton

My often querulous first grader is never more content than when playing in what he’s dubbed “The Dirty Ravine.” This somewhat eroded, trickle of a stream near our house adjoins a sparkling new school playground, but it’s not the playground that inspires my child. Playgrounds are static: explore them several times, and the excitement wears off. Nature, on the other hand, is mercurial. Shaped by water, wind, seasons, and even small hands, each day brings new discoveries.

In his muddy kingdom, my son plays Lewis and Clark to his sister’s Sacajawea. He digs, excavates, builds, climbs, falls, and climbs again. All senses are fully engaged, and problem-solving is a necessity in a world that is watery, slippery, and shifting. Do I allow him to play in the stream every day? Definitely not. A parent can only do so much laundry, after all. But the times when we do venture into the green abyss are worth every muddy sock that follows.

Small patches of wildland exist just about everywhere. They’re found in the copses between farm fields, the thickets that edge school yards, and even the ring of boxwoods in the town square. As parents, we are likely to overlook these areas, or worry that they’re off-limits or unsafe. I think it’s time for a mind shift. Time spent in nature has an amazing capacity to rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and reawaken. After seven hours in the classroom, what child wouldn’t benefit from a healthy dose of nature play?

This year’s long, long winter has finally come to a close. Embrace spring on her home turf: outside. Your neighborhood might not have a dirty ravine, but there is certain to be nature nearby.

For the past nine years, Adkins Arboretum’s Summer Nature Camps have given children the opportunity to explore such summer wonders as butterflies, pollywogs, blueberries, and fireflies. To learn more, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org.