Fun Family Activity: A Nature Walk Around the Block
When you're two-and-a-half feet tall and have only recently begun practicing the art of upright mobilization, the smallest of adventures qualify as epic journeys of discovery. Is it sunny, windy, rainy or snowy? Matters not. The world awaits, and Cabin Fever invites you to catch the excitement, too. Slow it down. Ditch your watch and clasp hands with a toddler.
It's time for a walk around the block.
It sounds so simple. But simple is something too easily neglected amidst schedules crammed with music classes and swim lessons and ice skating, with playgroups and preschool and grocery shopping and library trips and appointments galore. This morning is different. This morning, I find myself returning home from school drop-off with toddler in tow and nary a plan in sight.
We stare at each other in the kitchen. He half-heartedly empties a few drawers of their pots and pans. I finish a cup of coffee. The sun is shining. It's unseasonably warm. What, I suddenly wonder, are we doing indoors?
"Boots on! Outside!"
"'Side! 'Side!" Toddler races for the front hall. "Helping! Helping!" He gathers his coat, his hat, my running shoes, Daddy's Crocs, big sister's mittens. What the heck are we waiting for, Mama?
At the end of our walkway he gets to choose: which direction? Off he barrels, not quite believing his unexpected good fortune.
His days revolve around other people's schedules and require him to tolerate (barely) being strapped into a stroller or car seat on urgent errands, during which my most used word is "Hurry!"
There's no hurry, now. There's no agenda. There's no important destination nor impatient person waiting. There are two people, mother and son, and one simple goal: to follow the sidewalk all the way around till we find home again.
At first, he's so flush with freedom he can't slow down. We dash past several houses and turn a corner. That's when he notices the rock. It's gigantic, stands taller than him, and does he ever want to climb it. I lift him onto the flat surface, and hope the business's owner won't object. Toddler skitters his boots in a dance of delight. Now this is the life.
And we're off again. "There. Big tree." I tilt my head back, like he's doing, and he's right: the tree is massive, branches stretching into a pale, empty sky. He squats to peruse a pair of pebbles. Every plant is identified as "flower, flower." Why correct him?
We say hello to the mail carrier.
We discover a cat, or, more precisely, the cat discovers us and rolls belly-up on the sidewalk. Toddler is giddy at this proximity. Some minutes pass. We find a pinwheel spinning in someone's front yard. Two dogs in sweaters approach and offer to lick our hands. He sees a stone statue of a girl with a basket, hears birds in the trees, picks up a dry orange leaf and crumples it between his palms. We stand. We wait and watch for a long while. I'm not sure what we're waiting for or watching, but he's intent.
And, then, suddenly, weary. We're nearly home. A piggy-back carries us the final half-block. We've been gone for over an hour. We've seen the world. It's small, after all.
Alternate walking locations: If you live rurally, substitute a long lane, or forge a path around the barn. If your environment is a crowded urban streetscape you'd prefer not to brave, head for the nearest park. In nasty weather, an indoor shopping mall works too. The goal is to leave your immediate surroundings and explore something new.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.