Today, September 22nd aka Fall Equinox was a day to celebrate the beginnings of my self employment. I showed up to High Park in Toronto and was met by a group of shy 4 5 and 6 year old's. We started by discussing our favourite spots at high park as they had already built a relationship to it.
I shared that my favourite place was the black oak savannah near the nature centre. As I explained why I liked it, I focused on the ecology and the history and cultural importance of this area. The kids seemed interested but when I asked them their favourite spots they told me a cedar tunnel and a dirt pit.
It sounded like some great spots and when I asked them why they liked those places, they couldn't give me an exact answer so we just decided to go to them.
On the first day, we went to the 'cedar tunnel'. What it turned out to be was a cedar shrub that their tiny bodies could get under and into. There are a bunch of little tunnels and secret spots for them to hide, but most importantly, it lends itself to imagination! Within minutes of our arrival, they ran off into the 'castle' forts of the cedar tunnel, the rocks nearby became unicorns and the entire area was their castle grounds. Each kid took on a role and as I left them to their play, I recorded what happened.
One kid asked me if I would help her feed the unicorns while the others wanted me to come inside and check out their forts. It was a great imaginative morning.
The next day, we strolled along to a dirt pit as they called it. It turns out this is a dried up stream bed that perhaps used to be a waterfall and a meandering stream going down the ravine. They LOVE this place. It's made of soft sandy surfaces, tree roots, ravine walls, and lots of opportunities to dig with sticks and make up games. They played here for two hours uninterrupted and I just observed them and recorded. Their game consisted of some of them becoming dogs while the others were the trainers. Some kids created a sofa while others some stairs to climb up to the top with and some others created a frog habitat to help a frog we found trying to jump up to the top.
It was a wonderful time and the kids were sooo happy to have free play time at these places. Kids don't need a lot to feel excited, they need mostly for adults to step away and leave them be to their play. Their ability to self regulate, get along, solve problems, and work as a team was amazing. They were giggling and laughing for hours and that was a fantastic first two days in nature!