Our favorite playground is not one with swings and monkey bars and colorful structures. No, our favorite playground is the woods. It is the place where my two littles, ages 3 and 1, are content to explore for hours on end. The more time we spend in nature, the more familiar it becomes to us. “Look over here — this is our path. This is our favorite tree. Remember when the beaver hadn’t gnawed through that tree trunk yet?”
The woods remain mostly unchanged, which is comforting to a family who has experienced change after change within our established time together. The woods bring peace as the cool breeze blows through the tall pines. The woods bring tranquility as the same breeze spreads mesmerizing ripples across the shimmering blue waters of the pond.
Once our feet step into our woodland wonderland, time will mean nothing while we are participants and witnesses to the splendor of our woods.
The pinecones are ready to be picked up. The pine needles have been anxiously awaiting our footsteps since the last time they cushioned our feet in the woods. Rocks the size of boulders invite us to climb upon their strength. We accept their invitation every single time. My 3-year-old has climbed the same rock no fewer than 10 times in the last 20 minutes. A neighboring rock hospitably allows me to rest and nurse my son.
These rocks were just boulders before; but now, I can feel their friendship. My preschooler’s energy, laughter, and joy have bonded her to her rock. My son’s baby coos and my sighs of relaxation have secured us to our rock.
There is life and warmth in what was merely seen as cold, lifeless stone before these rocks came to life for us.
My daughter climbs up and slides down… climbs up and jumps down… climbs up and sits on her rock to appreciate her triumph. This is better than any playground construct I could think to take her to. The fashioning of the rock into a playmate was her genius and nothing another human could imagine for her.
She did the work. She reaps the playful benefits.
As I finish nursing my son and set him down on the ground of soft pine needles, he pulls up on his sister’s rock. He cheers his sister on for now, but one day soon he will make rock friends that allow him to explore the depths of his imagination as well.
In the woods, there is no nagging. There is no ordering my toddler to “be here, do this, no, don’t do that.” Nature brings an element of freedom as my independent girl gets to lead our adventure and experience the sense of control she so strongly desires on a daily basis.
We put off leaving our new rock friends as long as possible but realize that we must reluctantly part ways for now. We thank the rocks for bringing us pleasure. As we walk away, I turn back and see that only our rocks are illuminated by bright sunshine. The other rocks sit in the shadows as our rocks beam in the sunshine at the joy that still lingers. This encounter allowed our souls to be deeply intertwined with the creation we were made to indulge in.
We leave in gratitude to the woods for hosting such a magnificent play date.
Our family’s favorite nature spot is Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, but check out Boston Moms Blog’s 10 Favorite Boston Area Spots to Soak Up the Great Outdoors or Family Hikes Around Boston. When in doubt, pick a Massachusetts State Park! Let us know where you create your own outdoor family memories!