This weekend, we were able to get away with the kids on a short trip. Daddy was working an hour south of our house, so we were going to join him for a couple days. We started out Friday by driving to that city and finding the beginning of a long trail to hike. The trail started in the woods; went up and down hills, over tree limbs, past a small creek, over bridges, and on and on and on. With one on my back we got started, hiking out on the trail. The kids were in heaven. We found trees cut down by beavers, trees knocked over by rushing water, hickory nuts, canoe trees, butterflies, caterpillars, and every once in awhile, a little post, telling them something about the area. The kids stopped at every single post, reading the information, looking around, taking it all in, and learning without my doing a thing. We hiked out at least a mile, turned around and hiked back about 1/4 to meet Daddy, turned back around and kept going because they had so much to show him, went even further, maybe another 1/2 mile, and were very upset when we told them it was time to turn around. They hiked the whole way back again without complaint. Talked all the way to the hotel about the things they had seen, and were in a great mood.
When we got into the hotel, they went in calmly, sat and watched a show quietly while we got settled, then easily got into swimsuits to go the pool and had plenty of patience as we went. We spent a great couple hours swimming in the pool, went out to dinner, relaxed with a movie and went to sleep (granted, the sleeping arrangements caused an argument, but that was the only fuss all night).
In the morning we had a nice breakfast in the hotel, another couple hours swimming, and then packed it up. We had a delicious lunch, which we got to eat outdoors; another great idea. I honestly worried that they would be more hyper and have less sit outside on the patio, but they really did better than usual! Then it was time to do some more hiking. Since we were on the other end of the trail we had started the day before, we decided to do some hiking on a different section. This time, we were in the city, started by walking over a large, concrete pedestrian bridge, down some stairs next to a train station, and hiked a paved path that went next to some ball fields before heading down next to the river.
What a difference! It was still “natural”, but it just wasn’t nature! And the kids were all over the place. They went off the path, they dawdled, they whined, they complained, they wanted carried…We only got a little over a mile before turning around to come back. There were still things to see; evidence of the last flood, a mural under a bridge, different plants we hadn’t seen the day before. But they just weren’t interested.
I’ve done a lot of reading on the effects of nature on kids, especially kids with ADHD and other similar disorders. I’ve always known that Squirt, especially, can be calmed down just by driving through nature, much less having a chance to play in the woods. And I’ve noticed before that green spaces do not equal nature (going across the street to the wooded playground is NOT the same as going to the lakeshore for her!) But this is the first time I’ve seen such obvious, indisputable, evidence. Two days, two hikes, two *very* different experiences!
And the effects kept going; we left that hike and stopped at the bathroom, then decided on a little ice cream treat before coming home. They couldn’t sit still, climbed under the tables, Booga tried to go out the door more than once, and they all had to go to the bathroom. Again. Finally left, and stopped for gas. And had to go to the bathroom. Again.
So, overall we had a great mini-vacation, and best of all, we learned a big lesson. It’s time to find all the nearby woods, hikes, state parks, and paths and make good use of them!!