As my journey through motherhood continues I find that I'm constantly learning from my children and regularly surprised by what they are teaching me. Now I've got three years of parenting under my belt I realise that some of those earlier lessons are actually quite obvious, but possibly not when you're new on the job.
One of those first lessons, which now seems so blindingly obvious, is a child's need to play. It's the way that they learn, work things out in their heads and express themselves. So many times in the past I've heard a frustrated Little Miss C complaining that she "just needs to play" and I never really understood what she was meaning, yet after an hour of just doing what she wanted with her toys she'd be back to "normal". Doing a structured activity with her just doesn't have the same effect, she needs to be in control of what she does instead.
The same goes for her needing time just to run and jump around regularly. If she's been cooped up in house due to bad weather or similar then after a while she's literally bouncing off the walls with frustration. I now try to ensure that she has some time outside (regardless of the weather) to run around every day and she's so much calmer as a result.
Getting my head around this need to play has actually been much slower than it probably should have been, but what has helped me massively is reading Lucy from Lulastic's Gentle Parenting experiences with her daughters. She's really opened my eyes to a different way of doing things and one which I'm trying to embrace, even if it isn't always easy. Following Lucy's recommendation I'm also currently reading Playful Parenting to try to get my head around how to really apply this to everyday life. It's one of those books that it's fine to read and nod along to when the kids are in bed and the house quiet, but during a frustrating moment of trying to get the children out of the house in a hurry what I've read just gets forgotten. I've a long way to go I fear.
At the moment Lucy is on a fantastic trip around Europe with her family in a campervan and blogging about their experiences. Her latest post is about what they found at a Forest Kindergarten in the Black Forest. Just reading that post I'm sure had many of us taking a sharp intake of breath when she writes of children 6 and younger using sharp knives to carve pieves of wood. Any health and safety worrying parent (like myself) is probably shuddering at the thought, yet when you read about how liberating the whole experience is for these small children I find myself thinking how wonderful it must be for them.
All children need to play and need to explore nature too and that's exactly what we tried to do today. After reading about the Broxbourne Woods Sculpture Trail on The Mummysphere earlier in the week I decided that it's where we should go for a family trip out. With a nice pushchair friendly path leading us the short distance round all the sculptures it was just the right length for a three year old's legs and also provided lots of space for her to run and jump and explore, and that's exactly what she did – with gusto.
Pine cones were collected, fallen trees were balanced on, tree stumps were jumped off and she climbed everything she could. The thrill of being outside and just being able to decide what she wanted to do was exactly what she needed to balance out from staying home yesterday. Sometimes we all just have a need to run and jump.
What can you spot in the woods?