Wednesday, December 10, 2014

State Of The Art

I often refer to our outdoor space as "state of the art." Some people think I'm joking, which is understandable given that the place tends toward a junkyard chic aesthetic, but others cast their eyes over the grounds and say something like, "Yeah," and I know they're wishing they could be a preschooler again just to play here.

One of the things that makes it state of the art is that there is really no flat piece of ground out there. The whole thing is built on a slope, but even within that slope, the ground is uneven, made even more so by all the rocks and sticks and logs and other loose parts, not to mention things children have created or holes they have dug, that one must keep an eye on the ground.

This is especially true for our two-year-olds, kids who, in many cases, aren't that far removed from learning to walk. Sure, some of them started the school year running up and down the hill, but many are still finding that just walking from here to there takes their full concentration.

Last week I was watching a young girl pick her way through the wood chips until she got to the cedar rounds that line the sandpit. Her eyes were on the ground the entire time, her steps cautious and uncertain. When she arrived at the cedar rounds that line the sand pit, she stopped, studied, then negotiated the step up by relying on her hands and knees. Back on her feet then, she toddled across the sand, pitted from the shovel work of the older kids.

Watching her feet the entire time, she wove between the legs of adults who stood there, including me. She circled around us, precisely, pausing occasionally to assess the lay of the land before planting another footstep. When she got to the 3-inch ledge created by what's left of our old sandpit boat, the wooden one that is "sinking," she lined her toes up on the edge. While some of her classmates are jumping from places almost as high as their heads, this was clearly a "just right" challenge for her. After a moment of contemplation and preparation she stepped off, losing her balance for a moment.

She then circled around us again, retracing her steps, carefully skirting a deepish hole. She could have very easily avoided the hole altogether; it was a conscious move on her part to challenge herself right on the edge, not stepping into it or over it, but just walking near it. Around she went until she was back on the 3-inch ledge again. This time she only hesitated briefly before stepping off.

Around she went again, playing chicken with that hole, stepping off the ledge. And then she did it again.

After four circuits, she widened her circle, this time testing out the ground behind the new sandpit boat, tottering, stopping, her eyes fixed on the ground in front of her feet. Around she went on her new circuit again and again, each time a bit faster, oblivious to anything but the adventure she was having on her feet on this uneven ground. Then finally, down the backstretch for what must have been the fifth or sixth time, she ran a few steps, confident now in her ability to handle the ground beneath her feet.

Now she climbed back down from the sandpit, moving to the garden, where she found new terrain to traverse, new challenges, fully concentrating. 

After a long exploration of that, she turned to the small concrete slope. While her friends scrambled up it, she tested it with one foot, over and over, not yet ready to climb up, exploring its surface and angle with the sole of her boot: another "just right" challenge.

This is what I mean by "state of the art."

Finally, she noticed me watching her, looking up for perhaps the first time in her endeavors. I smiled and she smiled back. I said, "You're walking around." Her response was to fall onto her bottom, a controlled, purposeful maneuver. She smiled at me as if to say, "Not any more!"

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Technorati Profile