We've been spending most of our family weekends in the woods lately, hiking through various conservation lands and nature preserves, exploring and enjoying nature. There is something special about these wooded walks, allowing the children to roam freely, unrestrained by shouts of "stay close to Mama!" or "slow-up at the intersection!" The moment we set foot in the woods, we can feel ourselves decompress, feel the serenity and silence overtake us. Unplugged and unhindered, we take our time meandering through the paths, stopping to pick up grasshoppers, listen for crickets, observe spiders and lady bugs crawling on toddler-sized ferns. We all feel refreshed, enlivened as we forge deeper connections with the natural world and each other.
With the brisk pace of modern life, a regular connection to the wild world keeps us grounded, focused on our priorities and committed to unstructured family weekends spent mostly out-of-doors together. Contributing to our learning are the field guides, magnifying glasses, and nature collection bags we sometimes bring on our hikes and nature walks, helping us to decipher the sights and sounds around us. Mostly, though, we follow the children's lead, noticing how their senses seem so much more attuned to the world around them, their minds soaking in all that they discover from these walks. Skunk weed, for example, was a plant pointed out to the children a year ago on a nature walk with some friends and was easily spotted and recollected by them this spring on another walk. The same is true of the wildflowers and bugs and birds they spot along the trails.
As researchers at the Children & Nature Network state: "Because the natural world is filled with sights, sounds, and smells that ignite a young child's curiosity and invite active exploration, being outdoors can make it easy for a parent to follow the child's lead, to respond to the child's cues and expressed interests, to share the child's delight in new discoveries and experiences--the very ingredients shown to lead to a secure attachment."
Weekend family hikes and nature walks are a valued part of our family life, fostering our connections with the earth and restoring us for the week ahead.
I hope you enjoyed a refreshing, restorative family weekend!