“Drop it – put it down – Now!” that’s what the three children walking ahead of us on our Sunday walk heard, as one after another discovered a stick of their choosing.
Obediently they did as they were told. The oldest child of about 8 years of age took the longest to comply – but did. He had the most special stick – a sturdy 4-footer with twists and turns. He recognized its specialness I could tell – the way he held it, the care he was taking in carrying it. He hoped it could be a “keeper”.
After all, a stick like that doesn’t come along everyday.
What is it about sticks and children anyway?
When I was growing up, my sisters and I would hunt for “walking sticks” – not the type you see people using as a support when walking or hiking. No – these sticks were going to walk along with us. They were not easy to find. They had to be tall and strong but not thick – just thin enough on the bottom to hop along as you walked it – being careful to hold it off to your side, as occasionally it would miss a step and get stuck on a crack, and you could get jabbed in the stomach.
A walking stick was magical – a stick companion that appeared to come alive as you walked it along.
Sticks offer children an immediate connection with nature. Just the feel of the rough or smooth bark in ones hands, the different shapes, lengths, curves and hooks can conjure up any myriad uses for this new-found treasure. And a treasure it is – not picked off the boys’ aisle or the girls’ aisle in the toy department of some big box store – but discovered – in nature – by one’s self – the perfect stick for you.
I realize I’m not addressing the concerns this particular mom and other adults might have about the dangers of playing with sticks. That’s a blog for someone else to write.
This is about keeping the adventure alive.
It’s about make-believe, risk-taking , connecting to nature, imagination, freedom, treasure – and also, yes, self-regulation and discipline. For only by playing with sticks can we learn and experience just what it takes to be careful with our sticks, to be mindful of others while we play with our sticks.
And in doing so, keep our spirits and imaginations growing and strong.