Recently, I observed a parent holding a young child, while talking to another adult. The adults didn't notice the child reaching for leaves - from a tree above them. Walking by, I took notice of the wonder and excitement in the child's eyes, as she reached out for the leaves. She batted at them....the leaves moved. She smiled.
This interaction reminded me that children are born with an inner desire to explore nature. The texture, the vibrant colors, the sight of movement by a gentle breeze; these characteristics make leaves and other natural items as exciting and engaging as any manufactured toy to a young child. Natural items surround us - ready to be explored by the young and old alike.
Later, I was walking by a restaurant and saw two little girls sitting at a table. Normally, I see children holding video games, their parent's iPads or iPhones, or occasionally coloring with crayons and paper. I was caught off guard, when I noticed these two girls were holding sticks in their hands. A pile of leaves was placed in the middle of their table. As their parents were in deep conversation with one another at the next table over, these girls were enjoying their own social time with big smiles on their faces. They were totally engaged in their own conversation and pretend play, having a blast with their leaves and sticks at the restaurant table. How fun!
It's nice to see children using their natural instincts as they play. Creative and imaginative play comes naturally for a child. Let's do our best to keep from hindering these experiences by providing too much time inside and not enough time simply outdoors.
- Robin VanGundy
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