Memorial for a Songbird
This past month, I had the pleasure of taking K-5th grade students out to Moody Park in Claremont for winter enrichment times. Some of the time was structured with activities focused on how plants and animals survive winter. Other times, we hiked, explored, and investigated whatever we found that interested us. And still other times, we stayed in a small area and played.
One day, play included sledding down a gully, using a stick to break the ice on a small creek, finding a dead song bird and giving it a funeral. Each child said something nice about the bird before putting it under an old tree and covering it with soil, leaves, and snow. Play that day also included painting ice and snow with water colors (including the creation of an icy gravestone for the songbird), following animal prints, and climbing on and over logs.
These times of unstructured play outdoors are important for kids. They use their creativity, critical thinking skills, imaginations, fine and course motor skills, their own judgement, and test out what they think they know. Their personalities show through. I really enjoyed spending time with these children and getting to know them better as they explored and learned in the wintery woodland.
Unstructured play allows children the freedom to explore, create and discover without predetermined rules or guidelines. It’s been shown to foster cognitive development while boosting physical development and social and emotional development. It specifically helps creativity and imagination, problem-solving abilities and social skills (Help Me Grow website).