Almost a year ago, as I shuffled around my Brooklyn kitchen cleaning up after dinner, I listened to an episode of the podcast My Parenting Mojo titled, “What are the benefits of outdoor play?” that stayed with me.
My maternal grandparents lived on a farm and, growing up, my brother and I spent many days and weeks on the farm enjoying unstructured, outdoor play. The farm house they lived in was small, there wasn’t any internet and movies were limited to Flipper and The Sound of Music on VHS. Yet, I never felt bored there. I dug in the dirt, fed the horses and barn cats, wandered around in the alfalfa fields, jumped from bale to bale in the hayloft, captured toads, bats, moles and snapping turtles. Solitary play didn’t feel lonely there. The margin between the imagined universe and the real one was vaporous. Only coming in from play was like being jolted from a dream.
My daughter, conversely, was growing up largely indoors. By one year old she had been to many more cocktail parties in Manhattan than empty fields. She didn’t like her feet to touch dirt and watching her sit on the ground, at the park, with both feet suspended in the air to keep them from touching the grass, while hilarious, also made me feel a little sad.
Now that we live in California, I hope we can provide her with more unstructured free play outdoors, and I’m certain we can at least offer her more opportunities to acclimate to dirt. To that end, we went to Paradise Beach the other morning and just hung around in some sand. Delphine found a bunch of shells and put them in her hair, our butts and knees got wet from sitting on a waterlogged tree stump. We threw rocks into the river. All in all, it was a success.