It started as a way of getting him outside while Elissa naps, but has turned into one of my favorite daily activities. Without fail, around 4:00, I put my sweet little girl in a sling or carrier and take Brayden outside for a walk. We stay outside until 5:30 - and even then, he cries when it's time to come in.
At first, I just enjoyed spending the time outside and watching Brayden have fun. But over the weeks, I've grown to really appreciate this time for so many deeper reasons.
Sometimes it really saddens me to think about how things have changed over the years. When I was a kid, we'd go outside to play with friends and simply be back before dinner. It's amazing that in just a few decades things could change so substantially. We're living in a time when it's no longer safe for children to roam around outside by themselves - to be outside of parental supervision. It's also increasingly common for kids to have nearly all of their time and activities planned out for them (sports teams, music lessons, art classes, etc...). Even at this young age, there are so many structured activities to keep toddlers busy. These packed schedules leave no time for them to simply be kids - to explore the world, to engage their curiosities, to discover new things and to just be part of the world around them.
When Brayden and I go on these "walks," I let him lead. When we get to a crossroad, I ask him where he wants to go and he points in a direction. (Thankfully, he hasn't gotten me lost yet!) He goes wherever he wants and stops along the way to explore. And he loves it. He learns about so many things while we're out - experimenting with sticks, rocks and dirt, watching strangers interact, following cars (or more likely, service vehicles or fire trucks) around the neighborhood, chasing birds, dropping pebbles in puddles, observing animals around the pond, watching kids fly kites. He discovers new interests and experiences (recently, the nearby baseball field started hosting games and practices and Brayden just can not get enough. I've never seen a two-year-old's attention so raptly held for such a long time). The list goes on.
He also comes up with his own games. He found a area full of rocks and decided to try to throw them a certain distance. He finds a large stick and tests the sound it makes out on different surfaces. He counts ducks (or turtles or birds). He repeatedly walks along a track that I assume used to be for a trolley. He searches out every airplane, helicopter or garbage truck he hears.
He has time to just be a kid. To explore the world, to observe real life and to interact with everything and anything he wants. He loves it. And therefore, I love it.
Some of my husband's favorite memories from his own childhood are when he and his best friend were just goofing off together - coming up with silly games and activities of their own (I think I recall one about them racing bottle caps down the water leading to a sewer). Some of the best parts of life happen in those spaces not reserved for anything. The spaces between planned activities or events that allow imagination, curiosity and exploration to fill them.
I love that Brayden is getting this kind of time every day. And I truly hope it never stops. ♥