A View from the Farm – Unplug-It Week
My children spent the better part of an hour this afternoon playing in a small puddle in a rut formed by my car tire. Mud pies, mud cakes, and mud tea were all on the menu, and all over them by the time we headed in for dinner. They couldn’t have been happier.
As I watched them playing together and independently, I noticed all sorts of things happening that were clearly helping them with steps in their own development: practicing negotiation skills (“okay, you dig first, but don’t mess up my pile over there”), planning a sequence of actions, manipulating their environment, testing tools and hypotheses (“I think maybe this type of shovel will move more mud than the other – hmm, let’s see”), understanding their physical abilities and simply moving their bodies.
Of course to me and to them it’s about fun on a warm spring afternoon, but I point out all of the growth that occurs with play like this because these days play is getting short shrift, and play in nature even less time, though parents and educators around the world are finding ways to bring it back.
Play is not an add-on. It is really, in a sense, the work that kids must do to test, flex, and develop their abilities. It may do more than make them happier (and why that’s not enough I can’t fathom!) – it may also make them smarter, especially when it comes to problem-solving, with nature play being the most effective type of play in that regard.
Nature play isn’t just for kids either. At the Damariscotta River Association we are creating opportunities to people of all ages to get out and enjoy exceptional lands throughout the Damariscotta region. And we do offer numerous programs for kids in the outdoors, from summer camp to after school Junior Naturalists, where play is a big component of the experience.
This week is Unplug-It Week when kids and families are encouraged to break away from screen time and get out and active. I’m impressed and pleased by these efforts and happy that DRA is contributing to this worthy goal every day of the year!