Something very special starts happening in our home during Spring time. You know that saying “Spring is in the air.” Well, its not just about romantic love! When you are a child, Spring in the air is all about the excitement of leaves budding, tomato blossoms, warm weather, and sunshine. We live in southern California about 1/4 mile from the ocean as the crow flies and to us grown-ups it feels like Spring ten months out of the year. The average temperature is 70 and we usually have to put on a sweater or jacket in the evenings and “winter” days because of the cool ocean breeze. I know “poor me” right?
While I love the California weather, I’ve wondered if it doesn’t detract somewhat from the arrival of Spring. We do have a slight boost in May because that is when the warm days start popping up here and there. We will have one or two days when it is 85-90 degrees and then four days in a row where the high is 70 from now until August. This seems to actually increase the excitement of my children. My son Caleb has spent the last several days up on the “mountain” behind our house.
Now mind you, that mountain is really just a very tiny, somewhat steep bank up against the road. It cracks me up that he calls it a mountain. We are outside all year long, but for Caleb the warmer weather and our study of rocks has been his inspiration to go exploring.
Once he started exploring the bank, he found more then just a couple rocks though. His outdoor exploration has yielded an entire treasure trove of rocks, branches, leaves, a few fossils, funny plants, a tree to climb, bark, and logs. He has even found a few bugs to play with! Eventually, he started dragging his siblings and friends up onto the bank and inspiring them to find their own treasure.
Some of you are nodding your heads right about now, and wondering why I am making this “normal little boy” behavior into a blog post. Maybe you live in a rural area or on a large lot and your kids love to be outside digging in the dirt.
I’m writing this post to encourage all of the mothers who are afraid to give their children the freedom to explore. Free exploration is a cornerstone of education. The exploration of nature has a powerful effect on the brain, and the freedom to explore the outdoors helps children think outside the box. The value of outdoor exploration is well-documented, and yet dozens of urban and suburban kids have no idea how to “play” out in nature. Spring is the perfect time to introduce them to the magic!
I know I have talked a great deal about “freedom” in this post but I am not suggesting you give your child unhindered or unsupervised freedom in urban/suburban America. I would start out by exploring with your child in your backyard or at a nearby park. We are so lucky to live in a fenced in community where it is actually pretty safe for my big kids to explore on their own while I watch from the windows or porch.
When my little guys want to go join their brother, I am right in their midst providing oversight. We don’t really have access to a woods or acreage for my kids to explore. The bank behind our house or a local park is about as good as it gets.
I recognize that many of you are surrounded by concrete, and so I encourage you to get outside with your children and get them excited about nature. Find ways to give them freedom, even if it means finding a park with a large field where you can watch while they dig, collect, and scrape their way around. Get down in the dirt with them until they find the inspiration to play on their own!
When you go to the library, bring home some great books about the outdoors, kids who explored, and the different aspects of nature. Encourage your children to take sketch pads outside when they go explore and create drawings of what they see. Take pictures and put them in a journal too! All of these activities will encourage your child to have a love for outdoor exploration and a love for God’s creation.