So I am doing something different this summer. I am running a summer program for preschoolers for the community centre my preschool is in. Its been a great experience. It has been challenging as well. Its kind of like the first week of preschool every week. You know that time when you and the children are still learning each others boundaries and names, developing relationships and just basically getting to know each other. That week where you always have one eye on the door just in case someone bolts, a lot of jumping from one child to the next trying to make sure you connect with everyone. Well summer camp is like that every week. By the end of the week we have a good rhythm, I feel connected to the children and parents and we all feel relaxed. Monday though we start all over again.
I did this for the challenge. I was curious if a week long program could help create a sense of community and connectedness. I am happy to say I believe it does. I feel very connected not only to the children who have passed through our doors but the families as well.
The truth is though a week long program with 2.5 to 5 years olds is kind of like being on high alert all the time. I really have a new respect for educators and community programs that work in strong starts, parent and tot groups and of course camps.
I want to share one week in particular with you, actually more like one day. See this one week a couple weeks ago almost half of the children in our program were under the age of three. Quite capable, amazing two year olds but young and I had planned a walk to a beach that was a bit of a trek for our Thursday trip. After two days of going for small walks around the park adjacent to the community centre I quickly realized this hike on Thursday may not be right for these children. So I chatted to the parents and asked that they drop off their children at the beach that day.
Thursday morning I went straight to the beach set up a tent with books and pillows inside for shade, I set up a blanket for snacks and relaxing, I put out pales, shovels and rakes and finally I set up a visual boundary of where they could play. As the families arrived I showed them the tent, blanket, shovels, pales, rakes and the boundary. The children were so excited to be at the beach.
So you remember earlier in the post where I said running a summer program was like being on high alert all the time. It wasn’t like that at the beach. It was amazing, I was relaxed, the children were relaxed and we had the most magnificent time.
The children built roads, dug holes and looked for burried treasure in the sand.
Collections were found.
Seaweed mountains were made.
The children played on the water’s edge.
The children took some risks and played quite a distance away from me. I took some risks and let them.
When the parents picked up sand was in every crevice of their bodies, they were wet and tired but you could not wipe the smiles off their faces. This is what nature play does for us, it calms us down, it allows us to be creative, it allows us to play play that we designed, it allows us to take risks, it allows us to be physical, it allows us to get exhausted and it allows us to reflect. Notice I didn’t say them or the children…. all those things happened for me that day too.
“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”