I loved exploring when I was a kid. Our little neighborhood gang would head out on our bicycles early on a Saturday morning and traipse through the woods, build forts, climb trees, play in the mud, spend hours imagining we were famous explorers, and be back home just in time for dinner. I hold these memories so closely, and so badly want the same for my kids. While times are different now, and we're not as comfortable with allowing our kids to play for hours on end without adult supervision, I still want to find ways to instill that same sense of adventure in my kids.
When my oldest was very little, I took her on walks around the neighborhood and pointed out different sights and sounds, in the hope that she would be intrigued to explore them all when she was older. I'd stop occasionally and have her listen to the leaves rustling across the street, the rushing water in the creek after a big rainfall, or different bird calls coming from the woods. I would point to the colors of the buds on the trees in the Spring and hand her fallen branches and berries to feel (while watching her closely because she put everything in her mouth). As she grew older, when I would tell her we were going for a nature walk, she'd excitedly climb into the stroller. We'd put on our listening ears and our nature goggles (a term we made up when on the lookout for all things nature-y) and head out for our daily dose of fresh air.
These nature walks continued when we had our son, evolving into my daughter walking beside the stroller gathering sticks to build a squirrel house. Now, I try to make sure to give them both time for open-ended play outside and let them explore further and further away from me in the woodsin our neighborhood. Sometimes I engage with them and we play games and pretend we're scientists looking for a new species of reptile, but mostly I let them explore their world and the abundance of adventure it has to offer. I know it's been a good day when there are muddy boots in the garage, dirt under their fingernails, and piles of leaves and sticks in the yard. But teaching a sense of adventure doesn't end there.
Sometimes when we've been cooped up in the house for too long, I will ask if they want to go on an adventure. This usually means I have no idea what we're going to do (not that I let them know that), but I put them in the car and drive until we find something. Whether this means a trip to the grocery store, where I send them on a scavenger hunt to find the ingredients we need for dinner, or if it means ending up at a playground or a trail somewhere. I want them to learn to be comfortable with the unknown, and not fear it, so they realize that adventures are all around us all the time. Children are naturally curious and I've had so much fun encouraging this curiosity in my kids. I feel proud they want to try new things and take risks. I want them to care less about the destination and more about the journey, and I think they're starting to catch on. When I can sit back and watch my kids run down to the creek bed with their nets and buckets, excited for their next adventure, I am one happy mom.