Today I took a walk in the woods with my kid. Normally my hikes are measured by distance, time or difficulty. By those scales, today’s hike was less than 100m, took all of 20 minutes, and was easier than an “easy” rating. But if you use a different scale, measuring instead what I saw, learned, and enjoyed, it rated off the scales. My 18-month old plucked and ate her first wild raspberry, collected at least a dozen rocks, swung a stick, and “weeded” the forest. She delighted in running her fingers through low-hanging branches, soaking herself with drops from the recent rainfall. She chased our cat into a grove of ferns taller than her, then couldn’t find her way out.
I don’t mean to make this sound like a too-perfect fairy tale from a movie. It was a simple walk around my parents rural home, and my kid did all the things kids to when you let them explore outside. And it was a reminder to me of why it’s important to let my kid explore. Because as great as playgrounds are, there’s a limit to how much a kid can do with metal slides and rubber swings. There’s a reason that kids are as happy to dig in the dirt, as they are to climb the monkey bars.
So as often as I take my kid to a playground, I promise to also let her play under a tree, in the garden, or in a puddle. Because hanging out in a natural setting that changes constantly will, I believe, help her grow to love and appreciate the world around her.
Today’s green pledge is for my kid. I promise to let her get dirty, play in the woods, and generally be a “real” kid, even when we’re back in the city. Because when you’re only 3 feet tall, even a backyard garden can be a forest.