When I finally walked over to the pine tree area, I didn’t see them anywhere...
I took my son (11) and daughter (8) to Warner Lake County Park last week for a bit of hiking and exploring and to collect acorns for an art project we had planned for an event. As I parked by the nature center, the kids made a beeline for a set of pine trees they had noticed the minute we entered the lot.
Now, those of you who are parents understand the “rush” that comes when your kids exit a vehicle. They immediately take off to explore while you work to unpack and prepare for whatever is coming. Needless to say, when I finally walked over to the aforementioned pine tree area, I didn’t see them anywhere.
They were building an awareness of their own thresholds - the crossover between comfortable risk-taking and a dangerous kamikaze jump
After hearing several snickers and whispered giggles from above, I located my two children over halfway up the largest pine. I smiled as I realized they understood what it meant to take healthy risks. Yes, one misstep on the journey up or down from this height meant certain broken bones or possibly worse, but my children were building an awareness of their own thresholds - the crossover between comfortable risk-taking and a dangerous kamikaze jump. They knew what they were capable of and pushed themselves a little bit more, but recognized on their own when it was necessary to stop.
Nature provides the perfect setting to develop healthy risk-taking habits and boosts self-awareness, self-reliance, and self-esteem in our children. Its playground levels the playing field for all kids because it requires the use of the imagination - something instilled in each of us as youth but lost as we grow. We simply tend to lose our ability to use it as we are conditioned by factors in society and education.
The world needs thinkers, inventors, explorers, innovators, creators, and doers. We need to give the world what it needs by allowing our kids to become risk-takers, free-thinkers, and challengers of their own abilities. With these freedoms also come the respect of and pride for our natural surroundings. Nature is all-encompassing, and instead of shielding our children from the possible perils of adventure, we must embrace and return to our original roots of learning, connecting, and growing authentically.