My name is Stacey. Many of you know me. For those who don’t, I’m the one who shows up at program wearing a pair of canine ears or a fluffy tail, the one who tells stories sometimes, and the one who works behind the scenes making sure that you’ve got a great program to come to each week or month or summer.
I’m writing you a letter to ask for your help solving a problem:
A lot of grown-ups have forgotten how to play with nature. Maybe some of them bike, or hike, or rock climb. Recreation in nature is great! But I am talking about playing with nature. Like you know how to do. Like catching fireflies and frogs, exploring creeks and ponds, building forts, or just “mucking around” in the woods
I know that’s hard to believe. Playing with nature seems like one of the most natural things to do. Many grown-ups, when they were your age, used to spend hours and hours outside doing what you know how to do best – playing with the natural world – touching it, smelling it, listening to it, tasting it… connect with nature through their senses.
If you ask them to tell you stories about that time, your parents might get a dreamy look in their eye and a smile might break out on their face. That’s a good sign that they are remembering the part of them that is wild.
I bet you can relate! When you think about your favorite memory from playing outside at Vashon Wilderness Program (or another time), do you get a big smile on your face? Do you feel lots of energy moving through your body? Do you feel like a part of nature?
Now, I’ll bet some of you are already lucky enough to have grown-ups in your life that still play with nature. And maybe even luckier if they play with nature with YOU!
In case you don’t, I’ve got a mission for you: help the grown-ups in your life to make new memories playing with nature!
Here’s a list of how to you can do it:
Show them the Door! Nudge your parents to come outside with you. Ask them to close their computer, fold the laundry later, or call their friend back another time. Have them grab their backpack and follow you outside!
Find a Wild Place! It doesn’t have to be a national park. It just has to have rocks, trees, bugs, water, or any other natural element that you can play with. Your own backyard is a great spot!
Be Curious! Sometimes grown-ups might not remember what to do when they get outside. That’s ok. Just share your curiosity with them and let them know there is no right way or wrong way to play with nature.
Be the First to Play! Sometimes grown-ups might be reluctant to play. Just show them how. Be the first one to roll down a hill, or dip your toes in mud, or count clouds as they float by overhead. Share your enthusiasm!
Enter Nature Time! One of the best parts of playing with nature is slipping into a sense of timelessness – that feeling when you’re so involved in something you enjoy that you lose track of time. Try to set aside some uninterrupted time to explore outside.
Play with Nature! Real nature play is catching tiny critters, collecting leaves and rocks, lying in tall grass, digging for buried treasure, splashing in the creek, hiding amidst the shrubs, climbing a tree as high as you dare, you get the picture.
Keep it Safe! Grown-ups might not feel comfortable balancing on a log, or scurrying through a raccoon tunnel. Remember that play is only fun if both people are having fun. Encourage them to try things, but respect their limits, especially ones keep you and them safe.
Dress for Play! No matter the weather, make sure you are dressed to be comfortable. Rain and cold are still fun to play in if you have the right gear!
Share Your Stories! Having fun with nature is awesome and you can keep those memories alive by sharing your experiences. Make sure to tell your other family members or friends about your experiences in nature. You might inspire them to join you, too!
So, have fun outside this summer. And send me an email if you’ve got a story to share about how you and your special grown-up played with nature!
Canis Lupus (Stacey)