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Let Them Be Bored

It's January in Michigan, and at Wilderplay headquarters that means plenty of snow. Of course, we still spend as much time as possible outdoors, including a large block in the morning and another adventure after nap time. Our gear keeps us warm and dry, but we consistently wrestle with one other challenge: deep snow, short legs!

We've become a bit snowed in from our regular woodland haunts due to deep snow. Mr. Paul does us the favor of running the snowmobile to give us packed trails to walk on, but even that doesn't help a whole lot when we really get dumped on.

We have an area near the drive where the snowblower piles it up- our little friend AC calls this spot The Bumps. We don't have far to walk at all to get to The Bumps, and when you are small like AC is, a snow bank may as well be a mountain! Some days we don't go anywhere at all. We stop at The Bumps and climb up to jump down 9 million times.

If we can make it a little farther we can go into the garden where we find the snow covered straw bales from last fall still make great jump-off-ers. When we have a good packed Mr. Paul trail, we can trek to the woods to explore our favorite stick collections and play on the slide. We have one slight hill between the garden and woods, and with just the right ice-crust conditions, we can sled across that slope for infinite turns.

Piles of snow, buried straw bales, one sled, one slide. That's ALL we have. Oh, that's not true- we also have one store-bought snowman building kit complete with a plastic orange carrot that I think is so adorable we will never part with it. But really- THAT'S IT. That's all we have outside this winter for our groups of children to play with every day.

But don't they get bored, you wonder? How do you keep them occupied? How do you avoid meltdowns? Don't they need toys? Playground equipment? Why don't you just stay inside and give them an iPad?

Because this is Wilderplay, where we are bringing childhood back to nature! While we have plenty of white stuff and some varying weather to experience, the magic ingredient that I provide to Wilderplayers to keep them busy in the snow is...... BOREDOM.

Believe me, a child who is often stimulated with lots of electronics and toys does take some time to adjust to the nothingness. But not that much time. At Wilderplay we know that nature is native to childhood. Evolutionarily speaking, the outdoors is the child's natural habitat (adults too)! If you are brave enough to give them less, they will find more out there: more wonder, more creativity, more quiet, more peace, more birds, more silliness, more discovery.

You have to wait. You have to be patient and allow a few moments of whine to build and fall away. I've had more than one butt-in-the-snow arms-folded "I'm not going any farther" moments between the front door and our deep-snow destinations. But every single one of my little friends has learned to stomp on through the drifts, to listen through the quiet for a bird to call (every day I hear at least one child say, "Hello, Woodpecker!") to lay back and watch the sky, to be *thinking* about something, and to be filled with contentment by just that.

I CHALLENGE YOU. Give them less stuff. Give them more time. Be like AC. Embrace The Bumps.

See you out there, LL


When not working with children and their caregivers, "Lady" Lisa and her family enjoy exploring the woods, lakes, and beaches that surround their northern Michigan home. She holds a masters degree in early childhood studies, a graduate certificate in teaching adults in the early childhood field, and accreditation in wilderness safety and the forest school ethos.


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