Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wide Open Days


There is something very special about bright and warm spring days spent almost entirely outdoors. Taking advantage of wake-up temperatures already in the 60s, we headed outside early with a fully stocked picnic basket, books, and a plan to spend most of the day playing outdoors, in nature.

We spent a long while in a quiet corner of nearby Harvard Yard. My littlest one napped in the fresh air while the big kids climbed trees, played hide-and-seek in the shrubs, and made up their own creative games underneath shady branches and in hidden corners in front of old buildings.


While picnicking, we said hello to a passing acquaintance and her children. She remarked that she had been neglectful in not planning well for this April school vacation week and was seeking ways to fill their days to stave off boredom. As I write this week about "natural learning" ahead of Sunday's Earth Day celebration, this conversation reminded me of a fantastic quote in Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: "We need to draw an important distinction between a constructively bored mind and a negatively numbed mind. Constructively bored kids eventually turn to a book, or build a fort, or pull out the paints (or the computer art program) and create, or come home sweaty from a game of neighborhood basketball."

As parents, we can sometimes be overly-focused on making sure our children's days are fully enriched with dynamic classes and activities to keep them from being bored, when, in fact, boredom--and the important ability to overcome it independently--can be an even greater lesson for our children. I think that if we parents can overcome our anxiety about our children's potential boredom and unstructured time, then we will see that children have an amazing talent for making their own play, for finding interesting ways to occupy themselves, for unleashing their imagination -- especially outside, in the natural world, on warm, wide open April days.

Louv reminds us how important it is to understand and embrace boredom. He states: "Most of all, children need adults who understand the relationship between boredom and creativity, adults willing to spend time in nature with kids, adults willing to set the stage so that kids can create their own play and enter nature through their own imagination." There is so much to do on these wide open April days, so much nature to explore, so many trees to climb, so many opportunities to create, to wonder, to dream.

7 comments:

  1. I love wide open days!!! We have had a number this week and my kids are having a wonderful time on this at home vacation :)

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    1. Yes! So nice to hear that you are enjoying and appreciating these wide open spring days!

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  2. Our April vacation has been similarly filled with picnics and afternoons spent exploring nature. This morning we spent some time at Drumin Farm--boy was it ever crowded! It seems all the moms had the same idea; it was fun, but not as much fun as when we feel like we have the place to ourselves. We had more fun this afternoon in our own yard. Lesson learned (once again): LESS is more.

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    1. It's so true that less is more for kids-- and for all of us really. We need to make a trip back to Drumlin soon. We haven't been in awhile, and I'm hoping next time to leave the car in the city and take the commuter rail from Porter Square to Lincoln and make the quick walk to the farm!

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  3. We'd love to meet you at Drumlin sometime Kerry! :)

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  4. This is what I am always preaching. Leave it all behind (the electronic gadgets, etc) and come to the farm! Let your kids be kids. They do not need to be entertained or plugged in non-stop. When people come to visit our farm they are amazed to watch their children just simply run through the field and play. Parents so often make their children's lives so structured and full of activities that they have no time to be children, no time to figure out who they really are.

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  5. Great post. I also find myself worried sometimes about "scheduling" our play on weeks with no daycare/work... but need to remind myself that we have the most fun when we just head out for a day at the park, or relax and read together. Nothing that really needs planning!

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