A few weeks ago, on one of those first days that suggested the endless-winter-of-2014 may in fact end and spring was a possibility, we decided to venture outside for a Sunday morning hike. The Appalachian Trail passes close by, so off we went, figuring that even if we didn’t have a lot of time before our afternoon commitments, we could at least squeeze in an hour walking through the woods.
As usual, we didn’t bring anything but water bottles and snack bars. And really, that is all we ever need on a hike. (Okay, and maybe a first aid kit.) Watching my boys explore enthusiastically – Bee eager to go, go, go and Zip stopping to check out anything and everything he saw – I made a mental list of the ways they entertained themselves. And here it is: 9 things kids will do in nature, if you don’t give them anything particular to do.
1. Pretend to be mountain lions.
2. Notice tracks (paw prints) on the trail and try to figure out what animal they are from and where it is headed. (Zip’s conclusion: A dog. Headed west.)
3. Find a stick and claim it as the perfect fishing pole…or horse! Get very attached to said stick and insist on bringing it home. Because the collection of “perfect” sticks in our garage is definitely not big enough yet.
4. Rub their faces on moss-covered trees.
5. Hold your hand. (Zip rarely holds my hands these days, so that moment when he reached over and slipped his hand into mine while we walked was priceless.)
6. Climb a fallen tree trunk.
7. Find a hole and wonder if the nuts around it were unearthed when an animal dug its tunnel OR if they are the remnants of the hole-inhabiting critter’s breakfast.
8. Try to crack a nut.
9. Leave peanuts for the ticks to eat. (Huh? Yeah, I didn’t get it either.)
I watch how they become captivated and curious, how a calm comes over them – especially Zip, who seems happiest and most at peace when we are in the middle of nowhere. They get to experience the beauty and solitude that being in the quiet of the woods provides, learning that nature is rewarding in its own right.