On Tuesday, Edison’s school was closed. Livia and I met up with him for own version of nature school. Livia was excited about this opportunity.
“I’m going to nature school with Edison! I have my backpack and my lunch in it!” she exclaimed, to anyone who would listen.
Edison often finds special sticks that he wants me to have while we are playing in the woods. They are usually large, or oddly shaped.
He always tells me some version of, “This is for you, Chelsey. You hold it.”
On this day, he spotted one of those sticks before we had even left the parking lot. He stopped to pick it up, and was in the process of handing it to me when he noticed something.
“This is for you- hey, what’s wrong with it?” he said.
The stick was soft, floppy, and light.
“This is kind of like why we can’t dump water out of the bath tub onto the floor. That stick has been in water and snow all winter, and it’s starting to decompose. If the wood under the tile in our bathroom was like that stick, do you think it could hold up the floor?” his mom said.
“No,” Edison said.
“That’s why we can’t dump water out of the bathtub. The floor would rot, like that stick,” she said.
“Oh,” Edison said.
I could see the wheels turning in his head.
“Can I see it?” Livia asked.
Edison let her touch the stick. When she was done, he dropped it, and said goodbye to his mom.
It wasn’t long before Livia found some mud along the side of the path.
“Can I step in it?” she asked.
“Go for it,” I told her.
Livia stomped in the mud.
“It’s squishy mud. Write my name,” she said, handing me a stick.
“You want me to write your name in the mud?” I asked.
“Yes,” Livia replied.
I grabbed a stick and found a spot in the mud.
“L-i-v-i-a,” I said each letter out loud as I wrote it.
“Write my name too,” Edison said.
I found another spot in the mud and began to write Edison.
“E-d-i-s-o-n,” I spelled his name out loud, as I formed each letter.
“Now I’m going to wreck it,” Edison said.
He erased his name from the mud with his boot.
“I’m ready to move on. Livia, are you ready to move on?” Edison asked.
Livia gave the mud a final poke with her stick.
“Yeah. Let’s go play,” she said.
The exploration area was mostly empty when we first arrived. There was only one other child and a couple of adults playing on the opposite end.
Livia and Edison emptied our bag of tools, and got right to playing.
“Excuse me Livy, I’m right here. Please move over,” Edison said.
Livia scooted over to give him more space.
A few minutes later, I heard her say, “Edison, I need some space,” when he got too close.
There were a few more of these minor conflicts, but they were handled by the two children, without any intervention needed from me.
“Watch out Livy, I have a big stick. Move away,” Edison said.
“Edison, the person holding the big stick needs to move to a big space,” I told him.
“No, Livy needs to move. I’m using this stick to get a tool that is in the puddle,” Edison said.
“Okay. Did you explain that to Livia?” I asked.
“Livia, can you please move so I can use this stick to get the tool out of the puddle,” Edison asked.
Livia moved out of the way. Edison used the long stick to get the shovel out of the puddle. All of the sudden, a group of 8-10 children appeared in the play area. They crowded around Livia, Edison, and our tools. As I watches the other children and their grown up, I could see the potential for challenging behaviors.
At this point, we decided to move to another location. Sometimes I am okay with differing caregiver philosophies and ideas, but sometimes, I just want the children to be free to play. This was one of those times where I just wanted to be able to let them play, and I knew they just needed to play. I knew if we stayed in the area with the larger group, I would have to intervene and direct their play more than I wanted to.
We arrived at the new location and unpacked the bin of tools.
“Write my name. This is my stump, write my name on it,” Livia said.
“You want me to write it?” I asked.
She nodded. I formed her name with pieces of stick.
“And write my name. I want to wreck it,” Edison said.
I spelled his name with sticks. He promptly erased it.
“I need water. I need water so I can cook,” Edison said.
“Hmm. Look around, do you see any water?” I asked.
“Maybe the pond,” Edison said.
“You can use water from the pond,” I agreed.
Edison and Livia set up a kitchen next to the pond. Edison claimed the tall stump as his, and assigned Livia to the smaller one.
There was lots of scooping, pouring, mixing, and dumping. Edison poured water from a bowl into a piece of hose and watched it run out the other end.
“It’s a waterfall!” he shouted.
Livia was less interested in cooking, than playing with trucks.
When the children were hungry, Edison helped Livia open her lunch.
“Do you want this part open too?”
He helped her open each container in her lunch box. They sat together and ate, comparing and talking about their food. They traded crackers for cashews.
“Who is that? Chickadee?” Livia asked me.
“Did you hear a chickadee?”
“I did. And another. Who is that?” she asked again.
“I hear a cardinal, and some red winged black birds. Is that was you mean?”
“And woodpecker!” Livia said.
“You’re right, there is a woodpecker too. Good ear,” I said.
After lunch, it was time to take a potty break.
We slowly made our way into the interpretive building. Edison and Livia each picked up a fallen tree branch and began pushing them.
“This is my sweeper,” Edison explained.
They pushed their sweepers up to the building. They found a place to park their branches, and then they cleaned their boots before going inside.
They each took off their gear and hung it up all on their own, before entering the bathroom.
After using the bathroom, the children wanted to see the snakes and the turtle. We took a quick look, and then headed back outside.
We hiked for a few minutes. Livia found a large stump, and sat down on it. Edison joined her. They used their hands to scoop up the sawdust that was on the ground around the stump.
“Livia, do you want to make a kitchen on this stump?” Edison asked.
“Sure!” Livia said.
Edison got the tools out once again. He gave some to Livia, and kept some for himself.
“Can I get water in that puddle?” he asked, pointing to a large puddle on the other side of the trail.
“You can. You guys can play with the puddle and the saw dust. We just need to be careful not to dig up the trail,” I said.
“Why?” Edison asked.
“That’s one of the rules here. They don’t like us to dig up the trail, because lots of people walk on it. You can use the saw dust, though,” I explained.
Livia and Edison spent the rest of the afternoon playing by the puddle and stump.
There was lots of conversation, negotiating, and trading of tools.
When it was time to go home, they had one last splash in a parking lot puddle.