It's 8 a.m. and my son Lorenzo has just asked if we can go on a hike. My daughter Halona heard "go" and she has already brought me her shoes. With a big smile on my face, we all get dressed, have a small breakfast, pack a little backpack, and head out the door. I would be lying if I said this never happens. My little explorers often want to head outside as soon as they wake up. I don't blame them. Who doesn't love listening to the birds chip, the fresh air, and admiring all Mother Nature has to offer?
We arrived at our local nature center. I let my kids out and off they go. Today, like most days, they are the hike leaders and go wherever their little adventurous hearts take them. This often leads to off-trail exploring, finding animal tracks and hidden ways. Today, they find a little creek. We start looking for toads and take a seat. My son, staring at the sky, says to me with a hint of wonder in his voice, "Mom! Mom! The clouds are moving?!" We spend the next 15 minutes talking about the sky and observing the world around us.
Hike leader number one was ready to keep going, so we gathered our stuff and continued on. You would be surprised how much kids remember. Without a single peep from me, they head in the direction of our favorite spot, the waterfall. "Mom, do you hear that? The waterfall!" There is so much excitement on his face. I have been taking them to this waterfall since my son was one. It is so relaxing and peaceful, and we all love it.
With two hike leaders there can be some conflict. Most of the time it is due to which direction we should go. It gets resolved easily by letting them take turns when we are at a crossroads. (I hope you are laughing right now at the "easily" part. At 3 years and 17 months nothing is easy going at this age.)
Sometimes I have to play mama bear and pick which way we go. If they're still upset, a good snack usually does the trick. Regardless of the bumps in the road we encounter, we always have a blast and find new treasures. When I say treasures I mean sticks and stones. In this case they don't break my bones, but they are thrown into my car for us to take home. "Mom, they are family! I want them to come home with us," is the line my son uses most of the time. I always give in and we end up finding a way to use those sticks and stones, such as: an outdoor teepee, painted rocks, stick people, nature mandalas and so much more.
In all, when my kids learned how to walk and wander on their own I was a bit surprised at how quickly they became comfortable outdoors. So much wonder and wander. Just seeing my kids walk off-trail to get a closer view of a mushroom patch, to follow a chipmunk, to hug each tree and ask how their day is going – is just so amazing. My kids have fallen in love with nature and notice what's going on around them with no effort at all. There is no better place to do that then outside, away from technology, as a family.