The original plan of going to “Rock Beach” was foiled when we discovered that the beach was washed away by the heavy rains. We detoured and in taking a short walk down the path, discovered a little alcove. A view, a breeze, trees to climb, water to wade in– what more could anyone want?PlayScapes always begins the same: snack (usually fresh oatmeal cookies) on a large picnic cloth. The children are chatty and anxious to get going with the exploration. “Can we go now? Can we go now?” And when everyone has eatern their last bite of cookie, “Yes, you may now go exploring.”
The children first went to the left to see if they could catch a glimpse of the gorgeous peacok we had spied through the trees when walking to our new spot. We could hear the peacock, but the children were hesitant of roaming very far into the forest and were warning each other: “Don’t go too far.” I smile inside because these limitations are not presented in PlayScapes. We give boundaries before setting out. The children are free to go wherever they wish within these boundaries. The boundaries are set with the maximum exploration potential possible! It is always interesting to see who takes the risks, who pushes the envelope, who will venture the farthest to find the peacock?
There are usually intricate observations. The love bug has wings. The clam shell can open. The tiny hermit crab has the most beautiful little shell.
Throughout the PlayScapes experience, children take certain risks. On this trip, it was about climbing trees higher than the usual comfort zone. A messenger runs back to us : “Soandso is stuck in the tree!” Soandso is stuck and can’t get down! ” We are on alert, but stay put. There are few things that are more confidence building than thinking you’re stuck in a tree and then realize that you really can do this all on your own. And just as we had suspected, the stuck soandso’s were able to get down without assistance.
It’s not all fun. There are prickers that get stuck to our pants, fire ants, wasp bites, and hermit crab pinches. But through these obstacles and discomforts we learn a lot. As one four year old stated at 9 am (after getting pricked with sharp burrs on her pants) ” I don’t like it here. I want to go home.” Then, at 12:30 pm: “I love PlayScapes! I love it here! When do we get to come back here?”
PlayScapes is a program at The Stone House Preschool and Kindergarten. Every other Friday, a small group of children and two caregivers venture out into the wild untamed landscapes of St. Croix. The mission of PlayScapes is to offer children the opportunity to explore in natural landscapes and instill a sense of wonder and adventure and perhaps give a lasting impression of the magic, serenity, and beauty that nature can bring.