Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

A Simple Green Hour: Choosing Puddles Over Playgrounds

When we first moved here a year and a half ago, Cragbaby and I were excited to discover that there were 3 different parks within just a few miles of our house – the perfect distance for sandwiching a toddler green hour in between a grown-up workout.  Olde Providence Park is a family favorite, and it’s been the scene of numerous green hours, two of which are documented here and here.  Over the summer the playground was torn down, and was just recently replaced with all sorts of colorful apparatus to climb on, jump from, and scramble under.  Last Wednesday the air was feeling especially crisp, so C and I loaded up the stroller and headed off on a RUN/PLAY/RUN combo to the “new” playground.  C immediately noticed the bright blues and yellows, and gave the slide a test run.  But then he found a ladybug and decided that was far more interesting.  After a while the ladybug managed to escape sauntered off, and C hopped onto the balance beam.  From the balance beam he had a much better view of the parking lot, which meant he of course couldn’t miss the GIGANTIC puddle that had formed in the corner from all the rain we’d had earlier in the week…

So much for the playground.  Before I knew it, he was ankle deep in puddle euphoria, happily splashing about and tossing rocks into the “deep” water in the middle.  I couldn’t help but smile as I saw how much fun he was having with nothing more than a few rocks and a puddle of rain water – while the shiny new blue and yellow playground beckoned behind him.  Sometimes I think it’s tempting to assume that our kids need a lot of “props” to be able to enjoy the outdoors – swings, slides, bicycles, or even balls and bats.  Now don’t misunderstand me, all of those things can play a big role in fostering a love for the outdoors in our children.  We are big supporters of local parks and the activity programs they provide!  But sometimes it’s refreshing to lose all of the props and just keep it simple.  I actually thought it was pretty cool that C opted for the barebones, natural green hour experience over the brightly-colored, man-made one.  We stayed there at the puddle for over 30 minutes, until I finally managed to convince him that going home for lunch was a good idea.  

So the next time you are headed out the door for some quality outdoor time with your kiddos, think twice before bringing enough toys to fill an entire gymnasium.  It’s amazing what a boy, a handful of rocks, and a puddle can come up with, if given the opportunity to let his imagine run wild…just don’t forget to take the muddy shoes off BEFORE heading back inside…

What are your thoughts on natural-made versus man-made outside time?  Which do your kids prefer?  Do you try to balance it out so they get a healthy dose of both?


8 Responses to “A Simple Green Hour: Choosing Puddles Over Playgrounds”

  1. We went camping over the weekend and my girlfriends son preferred to throw rocks in the river over the playground. He did go there a couple of times but more time was spent finding rocks to toss in than at the playground.


  2. Brandy

    The last time I took the kids to the park, they had way more fun scrambling down to the creek and wandering up and down the very cool rock formations in the creek. This was after some doctors appointments and I was not dressed appropriately for adventure, but I couldn’t make them miss out just for that 🙂


  3. Manuela

    You know I love your philosophy on this!. It’s such a pleasure watching C entertain himself for hours at the crag with sticks, leeeeeaaaaves, rocks and whatever else nature has to offer… or by simply jumping over and over from a rock working on the perfect 10.0 landing:)


    • Erica

      Thanks for the comments everyone! So good to know that we aren’t the only ones who prefer nature’s original playground over man-made steel! 🙂

  4. Love this! We go out specifically in search of puddles after it rains. Nature is the best!


  5. Love it, Alex loves getting dirty; puddle, river, rock, grass, bark… the textures of nature keep his attention better than anything else…


  6. A few years ago, we participated in a project with Kaboom to visit and document the most playgrounds we could. For every playground we documented, National Wildlife Federation received a $1 donation. We documented more than 100 playgrounds. Watching my two children visit playground after playground, I soon learned that it was the ones with the trees and the puddles and a shoreline that really were their favorite. It got to the point where they barely looked at the equipment – just whatever was next to it. I read that is developmentally appropriate for children, and yet we keep designing playgrounds on concrete or rubber stuff or just mulch and take away the shade & imagination inspiring trees.


  7. Erica

    Carla – Documenting local playgrounds sounds like a great idea! Our favorites are definitely the ones with trees and puddles!


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN