Parents and carers are key to increasing the amount of time young children spend outside each day and to enabling a life long love of being in and caring for nature. Early Childhood Outdoors seeks to raise parental awareness regarding the importance and value of being outside in childhood and beyond. We also seek to support parents and carers to make a wealth of outdoor experiences possible for their children and to deepen their appreciation and enjoyment of being outside and in nature with them.
The ‘parents’ strand of the ECO blog is wonderfully launched with a beautiful reflection by Carol Duffy from Early Childhood Ireland, showing how the life long love of being in the outdoors has transferred through the generations of her family.
Slowliness – smelling the roses of childhood
by Carol Duffy
I watched you closely as I pushed you in your buggy along the green tunnel of trees and bushes. Your face was serious but your eyes wide. I wondered what your 20 month-old brain and body was making of what you were seeing and sensing.
The bumpy trail must have been sending vibrations through your body while the soft whistle of the wind rustled the leaves around you. You sat relaxed and still, looking ahead but keeping your thoughts silent.
On the busy road to the trail you had been all talk pointing at cars and people, but now you were suddenly quiet – I wondered how the beauty and serenity of the place impacted on you. As I watched I could see how observant and tuned into the environment you were, how you leaned over to investigate the sound of crunching leaves as the wheels passed over them. You were quick to spot the robin as it flew ahead of us hopping from branch to branch. This local pathway led to a glade where a stream with a beach of stones ran through.
I could see you knew what lay ahead. As soon as the bend in the pathway came into view you stirred, eager to open the straps of containment. You remembered that from this point it was safe for you escape the buggy and explore on foot.
Just yesterday, like many other times before, you shared this walk with your Dad, heading to the riverbank to partake in your current favourite activity – stone throwing.
Repetition is a welcome friend at your age and helps you become familiar, secure and confident about yourself and your world. I smiled as I remembered doing the same with your Dad and I reflected on the intergenerational circle of life, and how important and valuable these beautifully simple yet profound moments of childhood are. Moments that implant warm memories and ways of being, imbuing you with a love of people and place that accompany you throughout life.
As a young parent I enjoyed playing in nature with your Dad, throwing stones into water, rolling down hills together, or standing under cascading armfuls of autumn leaves. At that time I had no particular understanding of the special memory-making and relationship-building impacts of play in nature. Yet, a generation later, the power of these simple activities was working its magic again. This time however, after a career in early years I was acutely aware of the privilege, meaning and benefits of such moments. I had learned to slow down and smell the roses of childhood.
For over an hour we threw stones, splashed with sticks, explored the plants, bushes and trees. We listened to the sounds around us. It was such a joy to share in your excitement, and such a pleasure to witness your achievements, that our little fun adventure had gifted us.
As I cherished these simple moments a loving feeling filled me with warmth, for I realised that the playful moments of my children’s childhoods live in their hearts and minds so strongly that they actively seek to replicate them with their own children. As a grandparent there can be no greater reassurance. I smiled at my own sentimentality as my eyes moistened with love and pride. You, grandson, were too busy to notice – and rightly so for you were the embodiment of flow, fruitfully engaged in exploratory play.
In time to come you may walk in the shoes of a grandparent, and deeply understand these emotions that enrich me now. But for now, as we turned for home I felt the past, present and future in the little hand encased in mine. As we shared a smile I knew we were building our relationship with simple yet profoundly beautiful moments of childhood play. The stuff that memories are made of.
I can’t wait for our next adventure.