Find Safe Nature
The next possible destination for early years is “safe nature,” a spot preferably within walking distance, where grass sways in the wind, birds hop on the ground, dandelions scatter their little parachute seeds. A park that is contained and large enough for skipping, for rolling down grassy slopes, for laying on the ground, for smelling the flowers, and looking at ants and bugs doing their summer work. Then there is no need for playground equipment (more on that below). Is there an organic farm in the vicinity, where volunteers are welcomed and where a family can offer a few hours of meaningful work and in exchange find a place that supports nature play in an otherwise urban setting? The Rose Park in Santa Fe is probably the coolest summer spot in the whole town. It offers thick grassy expansive areas that are shaded and soft on bare feet. Other fabulous spots include Patrick Smith Park, Alto Street Park, the Santa Fe River (when there is water!), and many others. The apparent lack of playground equipment encourages children to use their imagination, to create their own play, to engage into discoveries and explorations, to use their focus and creativity in an unguided and unstructured setting, to experience the power of one’s own imagination – all the qualities that are so important and so hard to develop in our frantic world.
Urban safe nature is not wild, nor natural. It is a designed, constructed, managed setting – yet it supports free play, nourishment of senses, opportunities for explorations. It is, hopefully, in a comfortable proximity to home. It is not a day long outing. It is joyful without being taxing.
Forge Friendships With Animals
Children have an incredible affinity with animals, a soul-deep need to befriend and nurture them. Chickens and horses, goat kids and kittens, ladybugs and earthworms - animals of all sizes and shapes freely share their aliveness and their true, unscripted selves. Bugs and spiders, lizards and ants all invite deep focus, quiet observation, and soaring of child’s inner self into the world of imagination and beauty.
At times, much effort is needed to teach children how to handle and approach animals in the best way: how to pick up and release a lady bug without causing it bodily harm, how to feed a carrot to a horse. When we embody love and care towards the living world around us, children follow. When we experience a sense of wonderment in the presence of a bug, we are kindling love to all living things in our children.