How Outdoor Play Nurtures Imagination

How Outdoor Play Nurtures Imagination

How Outdoor Play Nurtures Imagination

Into the Garden from Sarah's Silks on Vimeo.

It's no coincidence that some of the most beloved children's books take place in gardens: Francis Hodgson Burnett's The Secret GardenChildren of the Forest and The Flowers' Festival by Elsa Beskow, and, of course, The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, just to name a few. Gardens, be they urban, rural, rooftop, or otherwise, are a wonderful place for the imagination to run wild and for creativity to blossom. When it came time to cultivate new ideas for how to use our Wavee Board, we realized it was the perfect opportunity to practice what we preach and let Mother Nature and child-led play serve as our inspiration.

We're blessed to have our warehouse located literally a few steps away from the beautiful Ceres Community Garden in Northern California, where teen volunteers from the Ceres Project grow organic produce and medicinal plants that are then lovingly made into healthy meals for community members in need. With the awareness that we were entering a very special space that is vital to our community, we encouraged the little ones on our play date to tread lightly on the garden pathways, resist the urge to pluck, and leave everything in its place. We were blown away by how easily they obliged; I think sometimes we underestimate young children's capacity for gentleness and respect when in reality they are often the ones most in tune with the natural world and, when encouraged, are eager to step into their roles as its caregivers.

 We also learned that while gardens are a great space to hold all of the boundless energy that comes with a multi-child playdate, they can provide an equally exciting and magical setting for a one-on-one date with just you and your little one, as well as a safe place to let children explore independently at a close distance, while you enjoy a book or a quiet moment nearby. Violet (above) had a blast at our first Playdate in the Garden, where she built forts and jumped on Wavee Boards with Nea, Chira, and Isaiah, but we could tell she also loved reveling in the stillness of an empty garden on our second playdate. She was very proud of the fact that she could carry the Wavee herself (the board's light weight and slender shape make it easy to tuck under your arm), which she did until she selected the perfect spot in the garden to set up a blanket and practice balancing. We also stopped to pick some peaches from our neighbor's tree along the way, which Violet lovingly wrapped in a silk and gave to Mom for safekeeping.

 Even during our group playdate, the children gravitated towards moments of solace--the garden providing enough space and plenty of secret hideaways for each of them to be able to breath and explore. Nea (below) enjoyed taking a break from the younger kids to relax with her doll, a nest of playsilks, and some yummy snacks. It was so inspiring to see how the garden functioned differently for each of the children, some of them bursting with joy at having an entire plot of land to run free on, and others eager to find the small spaces; under trellises, behind overgrown bushes, along covered pathways.

Similarly, each of the children reaffirmed what we envisioned for the Wavee Board in the first place--that as an instrument of open-ended play, it can meet the child at whichever energy level they are at in any given moment. Its curvature perfectly supports little ones as they curl up on their back with a picture book or dolly, and--as Violet discovered--makes a great backdrop for puppet shows. But when energy levels are high and little ones need to blow off steam, it's ready to be used as a balance board; its rocking motion helping to harness focus, improve motor skills, and invite relaxation. It can support up to 200 lbs--so Mom, Dad, or older siblings can hop on for tandem balancing!

We hope our adventures with Violet, Nea, Chira, and Isaiah inspire YOU to take your children  on a garden play date this Summer, and whichever instruments of play you bring along with you, we encourage you to keep it simple and allow for opportunities for your little one to explore freely, with toys that help them interact with the natural world around them rather than distract from it.

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