With schools closed, sports delayed, and all entertainment venues currently unavailable, the increase of families visiting the parks has been remarkable. Time for parents to connect with their children in nature is a positive result of this uncertain time. Last week, I watched a toddler pick up a walnut, inspect it thoroughly and then hand it over to his mother to do the same. I was instantly transported back to more than 20 years ago to my own visits to the park with my children.
When my daughters were very young, we lived in the city limits and could walk to most day-to-day destinations: school, the corner store, the library and a small park. When my older daughter was in kindergarten and first grade, we stopped at the park most nice days on the walk home. They enjoyed the playground, of course, but I was surprised to find that most of their time was spent exploring the trees and the various objects the trees dropped. We also followed ants, delighted in finding worms and even though there were squirrels and birds in our backyard, these squirrels and birds were so much more exciting.
Often, my kindergartner couldn’t part with a particularly special find: the wild-looking cap from a burr oak acorn or a chunk of moss that was scuffed free of an exposed tree root. So I agreed to one souvenir every couple of trips. It didn’t take long for her younger toddler sister to catch on, bringing me a prized item to inspect as well.
Over a couple of years, we had a basket full of items that were often moved around and periodically spilled, but my daughters felt they were much too valuable to part with. So together we made them into an art project, painstakingly gluing them to a wreath to be proudly displayed.
My daughters are now 24 and 29, but I still have the wreath. It looks a little worse for wear and it’s certainly not on trend, but it’s full of happy memories that included no agenda, no time crunch before getting to practice on time, but simply being in the moment while we explored together.
Suzanne Roth, Education Manager, Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve