Being outside with infants and toddlers is always a joy. It seems they have an innate knowledge of what to do out there. It takes only a few minutes watching them in the outdoors to see that.
Sitting in a park, under a big maple tree, I watch families with their young children. Many will lay out a blanket and set the child down as they pull out toys and a open a picnic basket.
But as I look around the park I notice one family doing something a little different. There is no blanket, no bag of toys, only a knapsack on the parent’s back.
The child looks around 12 months old, new to walking and in bare feet. It’s such a contrast to what I’ve been observing all morning.
As the parent places the child on the ground, the smile is immediate. The child looks down and laughs as the grass tickles in-between the toes. The first step of the day comes soon after as one foot slowly, with care, steps in front of the other.
Walking on uneven ground sends messages to the child’s brain to compensate for dips and slopes. This builds balance skills.
The next step is a miscalculation. The child stumbles and falls down. Not to be deterred, the child looks up to the parent and is greeted with a smile and some encouragement to get up and try again.
This goes on for a while. The child’s confidence grows with each step.
Something makes the child stop and look down.
I wonder what the child has discovered.
Slowly, with a stern look of concentration, the knees bend. With controlled balance, an arm stretches out to grab the treasure on the ground: it’s a twig from a nearby tree.
The hand opens, the thumb and fingers extend. Hand and eye have to work together to successfully pick up the twig.
Success! Overjoyed, the child drops its bum onto the ground and sits with legs outstretched, exploring this interesting thing.
I’m amused watching the child using its senses to explore the twig. First, touch and sight are used to move it around in tiny hands, feeling the bumps and twists. Then a taste with a tongue.
The simple joys of discovering treasures in the outdoors with a young child offers a chance to explore limitations and to safely push those limits, developing physical skills at the same time.
It was obvious that the bond between parent and child was strong. And it was a joy to watch the confidence that grew through the outdoor activity.
The parent, watching the child with a smile, sits down, and the two explore the twig together.