Five Tips for Playing Beyond the Playground

Five Tips for Playing Beyond the Playground
by Rebecca Walsh

Sometimes the playground just seems easier, and sometimes (let's face it) it is! We are very lucky to live in a city with a plethora of amazing playgrounds at our fingertips. But if you are like me, sometimes you are just craving a little more connection with your little one and with the natural world.  Sometimes it is nice to get away from the crowds and find a space just for you and your family. We are very lucky to live in a city with so many open spaces where we can do just that! From the Presidio, to Golden Gate Park to Glen Canyon there are beautiful open spaces just around the corner from about every neighborhood! But it can be a little intimidating at times to think about what exactly we will do once we move beyond their favorite slides, swings and sandboxes! Here is a simple list of 5 things to do to get you started in nature with young children.

  1. Imagine: A house made of sticks, a boat made of bark, a flower made of rocks. Remember to follow your child's lead and see where their imagination might lead  you as you create and discover together!

  2. Investigate: Where do bugs hide? Where did these flowers petals or leaves fall from? How do worms feel when they move along your hand?  What do you hear, feel, see, smell, and taste (when appropriate!)?

  3. Explore: Where does this path go?  How far can you run?  What is around this corner? How far up can we climb? Can I balance on this?

  4. Work: Children can help water plants, dig holes, plant trees, transfer soil in the backyard or on community pitch in days! Children gain self-esteem by knowing they are contributing members of their families and neighborhoods.

  5. Awe: Just stop for a moment and be inspired. Research shows that modeling your appreciation for nature, is probably the single most important thing we can do to raise a nature-lover.  Next time you are in front of the crashing ocean, a rock face in Glen Canyon, or even a few ants you come across at a picnic--stop for a few moments and wonder.  Help your child begin to develop a rich inner world that builds resilience for a lifetime!