Updated: Mar 5, 2021
Has your child ever asked you to join them at play but you deny for fear of getting dirt on your clothes? Does a somersault scare you because of a potential grass stain on a work shirt? Do you stay on the blacktop to not scuff your sneakers? Does your wardrobe limit the extent to which you get involved in the fun with your children? Do you stop yourself from jumping in wondering what other parents might think or that your too old? Here is your call to relish opportunities to feel YOUNG & WILD and remove subtle barriers to Wild Nature Play with your children.
Like many parents, I spend a good deal of my day indoors on a computer. Although I work in outdoor education much of my job is sedentary so that others might have access to natural play. To ease my sore neck I jog, go to the gym, play basketball, and stretch. However, these activities only relieve my physical and mental stress partially. Playing on the ground, in the dirt, is the surefire activity that makes me feel fully alive and well. When I am engaging in Wild Nature Play, especially barefoot, my senses are fully functional. On all fours I growl like a bear and charge my daughter for a big hug as she belly-laughs and growls back. We roll, jump, balance, dig, climb, and throw. We breath deep, feel the wind on our faces, lay in the grass listening to the birds, and say good night to the moon. The physical release of movement feels wonderful but the heart release of pure joy as I get down and dirty with my daughter makes it a full mind, body, and spirit experience. “Dirty,” is the element that I see hold so many adults back.
I made a promise to never let a piece of cloth stand in the way of playing with my child or to do my job of modeling nature play. I would rather get extra stain remover, or better yet plan ahead, than sit on the sidelines. Ensure access to an easy set of “get dirty,” clothes is available. If you are headed to the park put on an outfit that won’t inhibit your play and encourage your children to do the same. Get mentally prepared for play and leave the cell phone behind. I would much prefer to be known around the neighborhood for my enthusiasm of being a father than the style of clothing I wear. However I think I look pretty good in my dirty digs!
Memories of tumbling and cart wheels with dad will leave a lasting impression but it is not only about making our kids laugh. What we model to our children is how they perceive an adult “should,” act. Children learn their appreciation of nature and how to fully experience the moment from us, their adult mentors. I challenge you to put value on your childish side and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.