Toddler in the Wild: Playing in Nature

I should really be doing homework right now, but I welcome the break from academic writing (and I’m also procrastinating). This past week I was dealing with a flare in my back and was finally feeling better today. I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity when my body was actually cooperating with me. When my toddler said, “I go outside?” we did just that.

ask ecemom
“I jump puddle” is what I was told. Knowing that she was heading for any amount of collected water, I geared her up to the max – boots, waterproof jacket, muddy buddy! I think we spent about 20 minutes outside of our house because she couldn’t get beyond the puddles that were right out front.

ask ecemom
We had a huge wind storm last night and there were fallen branches all around. This fallen pine caught my eye, mostly because I couldn’t find the tree it had come from. It travelled quite a distance. Bean wasn’t too interested in the fallen branches. I asked if she wanted to hold it and she quickly gave it back to me. I wondered if the branch was taller than her? She told me she was taller. I know better than to argue with a toddler.

Bean repeated, “Too bright! Too bright, Mommy.” We went home to borrow her sister’s sunglasses and started out on the walk for a second time.

smiling tree
We noticed this tree. Bean wasn’t too interested in this either. Instead she was wondering “Where Daddy is?” Following her lead, we began to look for daddy and big sister, but couldn’t find them along our path. They joined us briefly then headed home. We did find Joplin the dog though!

Joplin was so well mannered and sat patiently before saying hello. Every time we moved or said “Joplin” she would get excited, which led to her and Bean just bouncing together. Bean even got to feed Joplin a treat. I had imagined Bean offering the treat from her hand, but she just threw it on the ground for Joplin. We practiced being gentle and learned how to say hello to a dog (with the owner’s guidance).

toddler play
After saying good-bye to Joplin, we made it over for a rest in the playhouse. The rest lasted about 24 seconds before she discovered the slide. “I slide, Mommy. Slide again, Mommy!” I only managed to help her on the slide three times, but I’m thankful for this “good” day with my back which allowed me to follow her lead.

nature walk
“I see duck duck?”

richmond dyke
“I go bridge. I go bridge, Mommy!’

nature provocation
We made it to the halfway mark and Bean decided she didn’t want to walk anymore. After admiring a few ducks in flight, we headed home. “Mommy carry you” she exclaimed. I held her as the heavy winds gusted towards us and then she settled on holding hands, or at least that’s what I thought before I was told, “I walk! I walk self.” She made it clear that she could walk herself and that’s exactly what she did.

A few outdoor play tips:

  1. Always dress for the weather. We tend to go out in layers because we can always take a layer off if it gets hot. I usually bundle myself more than the girls because I’m moving less while they’re usually running around.
  2. Follow your child’s lead. What is it that she’s interested in? Draw her attention to the sounds, sights, smells, colours, and textures of nature. Be curious together.
  3. Is there a piece of your adventure that you can bring home? We ended up taking home the fallen branch. It creates conversation for later, helps with memory recall, and can be a whole new activity on its own.
  4. Help your child transition home. I was watching the clock which said lunchtime was drawing near. I knew Bean could stay out for longer, but would soon have a meltdown due to being tired and hungry. I let her know that seeing the ducks would be the last thing we’d do and then it would be time to go home for lunch. After a mutual agreement, we headed home. A cat, a boy with a car, and the playground all pulled her attention away on our route home, but I reminded her that we agreed to go home for lunch (yes, I had to deal with her tears, more on this another day).

After we transitioned home and settled into lunch, I recapped our outdoor time together and we chatted about our walk over our meal. I couldn’t believe she was out for over an hour. I needed a nap just as much as she did.

toddler nature play