"Nature play is superior at engendering a sense of self and a sense of place, allowing children to recognize both their independence and interdependence. Play in outdoor settings also exceeds indoor alternatives in fostering cognitive, emotional, and moral development. And individuals who spend abundant time playing outdoors as children are more likely to grow up with a strong attachment to place and an environmental ethic." - Scott D. Sampson, How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
I began a nature and play-based education journey when my oldest was two years old. Mike, put the flow in motion while working from home and caring for our baby for a year. When Mike got promoted and needed to go into an office daily, we shifted, I transitioned from the classroom into a WFH job.
The transition was a steep learning curve. Everything around me was about playdates and [over]active parent involvement. And weeknight evenings (post-work) and weekends, I was that parent on the playground. But during the day, I needed to take calls, answer an email, or simply zone out while spending time with my baby boy. Although Mike assured me that our sweet baby was content exploring his natural environment, the guilt of not being completely present started to rise. That is until I read, this description in How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature:
“The day we visited, mothers were chatting comfortably on one of the benches while their children ran around happily exploring and playing games. The beauty of natural playgrounds is that they tap directly into children’s passions. In traditional playspaces constructed of metal and plastic, decisions about what to play are made by the designers. First you swing. Then you go down the slide. Too often, the result is competition, with kids arguing over who gets to do what, followed by frustration and tears. Conversely, in natural play areas, the child is boss. Imaginations are fired up as kids invent games with the available loose parts."― Scott D. Sampson
As an international studies major, I knew children from the African diaspora, and many cultures were left to their own devices in nature. Happily, playing, growing, learning. Still, the peer pressure of American playgrounds was real. But reading this book and similar resources put in motion my obsession with nature play-based learning. I was liberated from the weight of "adult-centered" play. I could lay out a blanket, set out delicious snacks, and allow my son tons of wander roam.
Transparent Moment: Many of my top-performing co-workers also had their children at home with them while they worked. We were able to form a tight-knit supportive community. Their direct manager was beyond supportive of their autonomous working schedules. That said, when he left - many of them also left. I'd be remiss not to remark on the power of management to either create an accepting space or one that is hostile towards working parents.
Many school districts are coming out with their plans for social distance learning. Many of those plans will have the majority, if not all, learning taking place within the home. I have my thoughts on this (and will be exploring later), and I completely understand the privilege of this entire conversation. But there is room for a conversation about allowing your child space to independently play (indoors and outdoors). Creating a rhythm where you work, unwind, have a cuppa tea, or have a conversation with friend while your children play in nature. You don't have to be a participant in the natural sense. The Forest School has been such a blessing in teaching me the power of child-led exploration.
Although, I am an advocate of removing distractions and being present with my children, as a working parent it's impossible to be present all the time.
"Be honest with yourself and your child if you can't be present in that moment. Let your child know another time that they can have your full attention." - Trina Greene Brown, Parenting for Liberation.
It's a paradigm shift going from two to three hours a weeknight with our children, where we are able to be present and engaged to transitioning to being together all day and trying to find the space to work and to create normalcy. That said, it's worth creating as much space as possible in your daily routine for your child to play independently without any interruptions or distractions.