“Teach a child to play solitaire, and she’ll be able to entertain herself when there’s no one around. Teach her tennis, and she’ll know what to do when she’s on a court. But raise her to feel comfortable in nature, and the whole planet is her home.”

Joyce Maynard

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Each time our family ventures into nature for a vacation, a hike in the woods or an afternoon campfire; we all seem a little calmer and a great deal happier. Free from the noise and the distractions of city life, we fall into the rhythm of the season that surrounds us. That very freedom that takes over is one that cannot and will never exist within the confines of a house or within a city and it is contagious.

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Natures toys abound, creativity blossoms and levels of anxiety dissipate. No worries over broken objects, loud noise, too much indoor running or making messes. Nature welcomes ample play, dirty, messy play that all children adore and despite what we might say, adults too, love to get those business hands dirty.

2015-03-07-Hike_32 Building a campfire, gathering sticks, stacking them in that perfect way that allows enough air to oxygenate the fire are all skills we long to teach and relearn with our little ones at our sides. We stop, we listen, we slow down our hustled pace. We look to the trees to entertain us, swaying in the breeze with stories to tell and bodies to cool. Birds singing overhead, the sun dancing across blades of grass, oh my, how magical it all is and our children are once again filled with wonder. The very wonder I want them to carry with them throughout this life, never distancing themselves too far from the natural world; listening to her stories, learning from her heartaches and playing in her mist.

Nature is the perfect playground and offers us a sense of genuine ease. We play peacefully, we may complain when climbing hills or mountains, but as the words trickle out a stick crosses our path and distracts the pain in our legs. The sun warms us on chilly days and we forget all the troubles that may surround us. We lose ourselves, and neglect the time as we watch waves crashing in on a black sand beaches, and play games of spotting Puffins nesting high above our heads, and we are always reminded how simple life can be when surrounded by the natural world.

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When given the opportunity to vacation, we typically elect to holiday in natural settings where are children run freely, explore and learn from the volcanoes they witness, the glaciers they touch and the sand that sifts rapidly through their small hands. Spending time in nature is not only restorative, but easy. We leave the toys at home and allow the stones, dirt, and sticks and mud the ability to entertain.

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Play outside, get dirty and see how happy it makes your family. For further reading on how to incorporate nature into the lives of your children, consider reading, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

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