A St. John’s Spring: learning from our children about the world

As our children begin to move and play outside more, let us not forget the wisdom they endow us with that we once had: how to be curious and revel in the wonderment of experiencing and learning about the natural world and our place in it.

It’s Spring in St. John’s. That drizzly, wet, iceberg-chill-in-the-air, time of year. It’s come so slowly and yet here it is, and while I long for the hot, humid days of summer, I feel so grateful to be seeing green grass peeking through the drizzle and fog.

This is my babe’s first growing season where he is mobile. A walking, chattering, trying to run and jump, little person. He’s also a very trippable little person, stumbling over turned up tree branches and large rocks. But his enthusiasm to explore is unmistakable, and it’s most certainly contagious.

I’m a person who loves to get outside. In my pre-mom days, I spent much of my time going for hikes and breathing in the ocean air. I would forage for berries on Quidi Vidi cliffsides in the sun, climbing for crabapples in the Battery, and picking wild mint along the Rennie’s River. But it’s easy in these early days of spring, when the air is still crisp and the misty fog is low, to still choose the warmth indoors over a rainy day walk.

But not with a little person in tow. Wherever we happen to be—whether it’s at the Arts and Culture Centre or a play date inside a house—he keeps going to the windows and the doors, pointing at the trees, the sky, the sun, the clouds, the birds, the cars, the rocks, the sidewalks, the branches, the bugs, the wind, the buses, the cliffs, the roads… He wants to be outside non-stop, and even after we’ve had a lengthy excursion in the woods, he is knocking on the door and reaching for his shoes to go back outside for more.

It’s wonderful to see. Its refreshing and my heart is full watching him explore the outdoors as a tiny walking person, learning about the environment, the landscape, his farm home, his city home. There’s so much for him to learn about each new landscape he encounters, and I find it amazing to think about the history behind him and the full future ahead of him. He lives on a farm that has generations behind it. The land is full of stories of the people who lived here, of the vegetables and herbs grown, of children playing and people growing up and moving on. He lives in a city where we can walk around and see the house that his great-grandfather grew up in. There is a marvellous history to be learned simply by getting out and walking around. Much of it we will teach him, and much he will learn simply by exploring as he chooses. And he will become part of these places, and their history.

Growing up with nature

Aside from the history that surrounds him, being outdoors has so many benefits for him as a growing little person. He has been walking for some months now, but occasionally he is still wobbly on his little feet. Yet here he treks, on woody trails and in unplowed fields full of rocky earth. He falls occasionally. He trips. He scrapes his hands and he cries. But he’s undeterred from trying to bend down into a stream to see what’s beneath the water, or to try to scale large rocky walls at Middle Cove already. Our first beach fire of the season found him climbing a rock nearly his own height, and standing atop of it proudly waving his arms at his wonderful feat, exclaiming “Yay!!!” I’m amazed to see how his confidence grows each day at each new obstacle overcome, and instead of being scared when he falls, he is eager to try again, and again, and again.

Photo by Leisha Sagan.
Photo by Leisha Sagan.

And just as I want to share these moments with him, my heart bursts when he wants to share them with me. He waves eagerly to me, he reaches for me to take his hand. And rather than us walking together, he is pulling me along to show me something that he wants to see. He takes me down wooden trails into fields. He will stop suddenly to exclaim at a rock on the ground, sitting in the rocks occasionally simply to feel and touch the earth. And then just as suddenly, he’ll pick himself up, take my hand once again, and we’ll continue on until something else strikes his attention.

At the end of the day, when we see his father, or a sister, or a friend, his lovely baby language will come forward in a rush of words both comprehensive and incomprehensive. He is telling them about his day and all the things he saw. “Did you tell Daddy about the rabbit we saw? What about the flowers we picked? What did you think about the daffodil?” And he will talk and talk and point and exclaim, and there will be giggles interspersed in his conversation, and pauses as he thinks back on something he saw. And then he will take their hand in his, and lead them back to the door to point outside and bang on the door and get his shoes, asking to go back outside and start all over again.

Being outside is the easiest thing for our children. We forget sometimes how beautiful the world can be, how amazing this Earth truly is. But if we can simply try to glimpse it through their eyes, even for a second, we can learn so much.

Editor’s note: If you would like to respond to this or any article on TheIndependent.ca, or if you would like to address an issue we haven’t yet covered, we welcome thoughtful and articulate Letters to the Editor. You can email yours to: justin(at)theindependent(dot)ca. Not all letters will be printed, but all will be read.

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