"Hang on, I thought you were responsible parents and educators?!"
Water and dirt are not only crucial to survival, but what the science books don't tell you is that they are meant to be played with. It breaks my heart when I see parents shout “No!” to a little one who is trying to splash in a puddle or go down a wet slide at our playground. Mind you, I totally understand what a drag it is to make the long walk home with a soggy-bottomed toddler (believe me, I have to catch my own instincts sometimes, especially when I just washed those pants). Without realizing it, however, parents communicate that getting wet and dirty are bad, and they cut off kids’ chance to explore some of the most liberating, cognitively stimulating, and engaging aspects of being outside.
Go outside, even if it's raining or everything is wet from the last storm. Make time to get dirty and wet (dress everyone appropriately if it helps). Oh, and here is an easy one - if mom or dad get dirty and wet too, you'll completely blow their minds!
Kids learn more “on the edges.”Even before we had kids, Brian and I observed our friends' and family members' kids at play. And as a teacher and administrator, I have logged countless hours overseeing elementary school recess. It's remarkable, and highly predictable—kids always gravitate toward "the edges"—the boundaries of a field or park, the uneven patches of ground, a thick grove of trees, and, of course, puddles! Any place that is not the "logical" place that, frankly, most adults would think to be. After observing this over and over, we wondered if these kids were just testing us. What we've found, however, is that kids are drawn to “the edges” because they need to be there in order to learn. Kids learn more when they are challenged and can take risks. It may sound crazy, but so many playgrounds and man-made environments are too safe for optimal learning. So, remember, the further off the beaten path you can guide them, the more they will learn.