Spring is capricious, changeable, unpredictable. Some years it is gentle and welcoming. Other years it is fierce and frustrating. One constant is that spring is most certainly wet. For my family, that means that spring is prime puddle-stomping time.
As soon as the snow begins to melt and the early puddles emerge, my children bound outside — free to stomp, and splash, and spray. Is there anything more symbolic of childhood spontaneity and fervor than running at full-speed into a glistening spring puddle? Joy, pure joy, I spot on my children’s faces as they splash about on our spring walks along city sidewalks and through city parks. As we approach a bigger, deeper puddle, they pause and glance up, waiting for me to suggest that this puddle is off-limits. Hearing nothing, they leap, they spin, they celebrate.
Celebrate they should. These first puddle-stomping days have become our springtime markers, our signals that a long, dark New England winter is ending and outside time will once again surpass inside time. These wet days lead us to reconnect with the natural world awakening into a new season, guiding us to take notice of the sleepy earth unfolding.
As the soil warms and the springtime rain falls more gently, my kids throw off their rain boots and race barefoot across the fresh grass, splashing through puddles along the way. Often we’re joined by other passionate puddle-stomping friends, sometimes we go it alone, but always the kids create their own games, their own fun as they hop from one puddle to the next. No rules, no expectations guide their play. They are free to invent as they choose. Sometimes the puddles are swamps with large crocodiles, sometimes they are ponds with swimming fish, sometimes they are craters on the moon. Watching my children and their puddle-stomping, I am awed by their creativity when given the unstructured time to interact with the natural world in a meaningful way.
With the inevitable limits of childhood, the nos and can’t-dos, allowing our children the simple freedom of springtime puddle-stomping is a gift. It is also a reminder. It reminds us of the importance of childhood play: unstructured, child-driven, imaginative, outside play. In a world that is increasingly fast and complex for children and adults, springtime puddle-stomping reminds us to slow down and simplify, to make time for the simple pleasures of childhood. It reminds us of our important role in reclaiming these unfettered moments of natural play for our children, of carving out the time and space to help our children explore a changing landscape. And it reminds us to celebrate a new season by standing back and watching our little ones emerge with it.
Kerry McDonald, M.Ed., lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and three young children. She blogs about city homeschooling, natural parenting, and urban homemaking at City Kids Homeschooling.