Now that the wisteria and poison ivy has officially died back in the forest, we've been able to go on daily forest hikes. We have three different areas, and because they are each so fun, we can only pull off one area a day. So we go either to Fairy Glen, which has a deep dry stream bed to slide down, climb up, and tons of vines to climb and swing on. Then there's Merry Meadow, which has a fort we have built, some fairy homes, and a "fishing hole", then from there, if you cross Sticky Street, you wind up in our new favorite, Loggy Bottom. This is full of fallen trees and logs, which the children love to crawl across. Or a big fallen root mound, which is fun to climb up.
We have seen so many transformations in the children from our hikes in the forest. The amount of effort they must put into these hikes truly builds their strength and stamina. But aside from the physical growth, there is tremendous emotional and social growth. We listened the other day as one child worked through her limits and what she believed she could do. "I really want to do what I just saw my friend do, but I'm still very scared. I am trying to go as far as I can. No, I don't think I can do it today, but that's okay, I want to try again next time and maybe I can watch my friend do it again so that I know how she did it". There is very little coaching that we are needing to do right now because the children themselves are pushing themselves. They have such deep satisfaction when they have done something new that they couldn't do before, and even when they decide today is not the day, what a tremendous psychological step they have made to know they can try again.
After our hikes, the children love the change of pace coming back to the smaller space of our playground, though their energy really isn't lower. Instead, they get reactivated to climb the hay bales and test their new skills by jumping off into a soft hay pile over and over. While this is joyful movement at it's best, it's also the child's way of waking up their body and brain in a vestibular sense. They are getting used to their body in space, feeling the senses that come with it--a drop off, a landing, the courage to step out, the energy required to climb to the top again. I would say that with the lowering temperatures, the children's activities outside have only increased!
Another goal that the children have been working on is how to make water flow up. They sometimes let it go for awhile and then come back to their experiments. They usually try to get just the right gutters or pipes and to pump the water as fast as they can. Sometimes they add sand to the gutter to see if that will help. I do not explain or interfere, as I think this sort of experimentation is the human brain working at it's finest and the interaction with one's peers, rather than having my own interjections, is what will help these kids learn to work together.
For our inside mornings, the children have been helping to mix the bread before we leave it to rise. For many, this has been a new sensorial experience or sticking ones hands into the goo and using some strength to begin to get the flour and water stirred together. It makes our morning so pleasant to smell the rising dough, even before it's been baked. And now the children also come in and right away are able to settle in to play. Some build forts, some make little stories of their choosing, some build cities with blocks. Sometimes I am asked whether these children are prepared for later academic work. The thought is that academic work is more "advanced work". I would argue that reading, writing, and math are actually the easy part. The more difficult part is the preparation of the brain, the body, the social interactions, and the energy required to work ones mind and body later. But play does all of this in the child. Studies are finding and I have seen that the academic work comes much more easily if the child has had a thorough play experience. This is the work of the child.