I happened to be in my office when the big kids came home from school yesterday. My 6-year-old son came into the office and asked, “Can we play outside?”
Assuring him that he could play outside after his chores were done, I then asked, “Where’s Abby?”
“She’s still outside,”, he answered. “She wants to play ‘nature’.”
A couple of minutes later, my daughter came inside smelling of spring onions. Apparently, she was preparing to “survive in nature” on our property. I smiled to myself and didn’t think too much of it.
After the big kids finished their chores, my daughter said, “Mom, if I get acorns, can we make flour out of them?” Apparently, she was planning something.
The kids went outside to play, and after some healthy, outdoor fun, they all three came running into the house. “Mommy,”, my daughter started in, “I got us pine needles. Can we make tea?” Now, you have to understand that I’ve never showed them how to make tea from pine needles. I’d never even talked about it. Unlike fried dandelions, I’d never even tasted it. But those three kids had it in their heads that pine needle tea was going to taste good. After all, it always worked out for all the experts on the Discovery Channel.
At first, I was inclined to tell them that they couldn’t make pine needle tea, but after a little more badgering from the kids, I consented. I did tell them though that I didn’t think they’d like it.
Shockingly enough, however, they brewed one cup of pine needle tea that they shared amongst the three of them, and they all claimed that it tasted good. I did have to laugh when my daughter asked if I thought it’d be good with cream and sugar though.
Later that evening as we talked, I found out that the kids had also made pillows out of pine boughs, and they found some sort of plant with thorns by our pond that appeared to be growing a “tomato”. My daughter was so proud as she told me, “Don’t worry, Mommy, we didn’t eat it. We know not to eat stuff when we don’t know what it is.” Smart, smart little girl.
That little bit of playing yesterday taught me a very important lesson. Although I know that my kids are always watching, always learning, it couldn’t have been demonstrated more clearly yesterday. They all have some real skills that many grown-ups lack, and those skills come from nothing more than recreation (playing outside and watching things like Dual Survival and Man, Woman, Wild on the Discovery Channel.)
Children too are teachers. My 9-year-old daughter was teaching her brothers. She helped to make it fun, so they soaked the information in just like water soaks into a sponge. I usually think of this happening with behaviors or habits that you DON’T care to pass on. (We’re never proud as parents if a curse word slips out, for instance, and our children repeat those words right back to us as if they were waiting to show off their new-found vocabulary words.) They pick up the good stuff too though, so it’s important to teach our kids by example in positive ways. Teach them, but more importantly, have fun while you do it!