I’m from the northeast and love, love, love the winter. (Okay, not snowy Maryland driving, but all the rest is all good in my book!) But as I walked the dog at dawn this week, I sniffed the mud, spotted crocus and delighted in birds chirping. Yup, it’s spring! Still have heaps of yucky brown snow, but it’s officially spring. Outdoors this week, kids ran wild – arms flailing, laughing, jumping, pedaling bikes. Teachers looked more relaxed as we soaked up the vitamin D and laughed alongside our kids. It sounds corny and cliché, it was really the fresh, greenness of springing breathing new life into all of us. Especially the kids. They seem to be full of life and energy as daylight lingers a bit longer and they possess even more curiosity about the natural world now that spring has sprung. That means it’s time to capitalize on their innate curiosity and wonder and get outside to play!
Here’s my list, in no particular order, of some of the quick ways to celebrate the coming of spring and to play and wonder about the changes outdoors with children.
1. Puddle Stomp Don flip flops, pull on wellies or go barefoot so you can stop through puddles with unabashed excitement and no desire to stay clean. On the east coast, this could be done nearly any day so far! What do you notice in puddles? Anything living? Decaying? Floating? Sinking?
2. Plan and plant a garden Pursue the catalogs, hit the farm store, till the bed, pluck the weeds. Get ready to tend your garden and reap the goodies later this spring/summer. Meanwhile, find a local produce co-op to stock your frig until your own harvest comes in. Children love digging and will love taking care and nurturing a garden of their own. They’ll probably be more likely to try a new veggie or two if they grew it themselves, too!
4. Tune up the bike, skates, swing set, fishing poles, kites Invest in new chalk, balls, bubbles, dog leash. It’s time to spend afternoons outdoors! Teach your child, or have her, teach you to use that hoola hoop. Practice overhand and underhand tosses. Hop down an hopscotch grid. Take a bike ride around the block or around town. Ah, breathe….(then check out #7). Donate items you’ve outgrown to someone less-lucky to have such fun toys.
5. Dig in the sand Bury your feet, dig for shells, walk, eat a sandwich with tiny grains of sand and enjoy. Is the earth warming up or still cool? Doesn’t matter because you’re out of socks and boots!
6. Go for a hike, collect treasures Bugs, rocks, sticks, flowers. So much to look at and explore. Be sure to pack a magnifying glass and journal. Consider painting those rocks or sticks and add to your art gallery.
7. Sit, breathe, relax, repeat Enjoy the quiet peace of an early morning or evening. Our brains need down time to consolidate from a day’s work and stress, especially after a full day of learning and play. Pull out cushions, hang the hammock or sit on the porch and enjoy the passage of time. Collect your thoughts, wonder aloud, ask questions, and listen to what is said and what is not said.
Wishing you lots of fun and adventure this spring!