Winter’s Wonders Keep Building

by Heather Fox, Education Specialist,                                                                                

Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Nature Explore

It’s a crisp Saturday morning in my Lincoln, NE neighborhood and the roads are covered with more than a foot of heavy snow. The sunlight sparkles through the recently whitened trees. We haven’t seen snow like this in months.

A five-year-old and a six-year-old slip into their snow pants, pull on their boots and venture out into the white horizon. As I watch them go I think to myself, “That looks like a whole lot of fun.” A quiet, internal nudge is all I need to find my winter wear and join them. I notice other parents lured outside as well. As father teaches his child how to make snow bricks, the idea of a snow fort building contest emerges. The activity seems contagious because it dosen’t take long for more participants to curiously emerge from their warm homes.

Once we are all in the midst of the snow, so perfectly packable and flurries abound, we are transformed into efficient, carefree builders. Laughing and sculpting as we carefully balance one snow brick upon another our structure grew and grew. Hours later we still find ourselves diligently building. The process has become therapeutic and we notice that although the weather has not changed, we no longer feel cold. It’s as if we have entered a magical place where time seems to stand still and our only purpose is to enjoy the process. Our unexpected play day resulted in one of the grandest snow forts ever and left us amazed with ourselves and what we accomplished together.

That evening, me being me, I began to reflect on the day’s events. What was it about this experience that makes it so unique? Could it be the new found snowfall and the boundless opportunities it provided? Maybe it’s was the quality time spent enjoying the outdoors on a wintery Saturday morning, and the children who reminded us to approach this situations with wonder and joy. I thought of David Elkind, author of The Power of Play, who defines play as “a human desire to adapt the world to ourselves and to create new learning”. When we play outdoors, we are creative and efficient. We let our natural selves take charge and things seem easy. No matter the season, this holds true.

My question for the group this week is what elements encourage great outdoor play experiences in your lives?