by Sharon

At Pop-Up Adventure Play, we talk a lot about loose parts and how to create play spaces with everyday materials (cardboard boxes, wood scraps, fabric, rope, tape). Well, sometimes the loose parts of play simply exists in what’s been happening in your ongoing narrative with a child and the resources of the immediate environment.

My area of special interest happens to be garden and nature play, and I have just returned home from a wonderful time visiting with my two, young nephews. The older one, who is about to turn 5 next week, has interests which revolve around dinosaurs, being brave and not scared, baking cakes, and running around really fast. I must say that the most wonderful thing about being an auntie is that our relationship and shared stories have been developing and evolving…over years.

During this holiday weekend, our shared story together included our crazy friend, the wind. It also included a couple of raptors soaring high above us and jumping off cliffs in our hang glider teleportation device (a swing) to travel around the world to eat dinner in different places. By the time Monday evening had arrived, we were off on a jaunt around the neighborhood. After dusting off our hands from digging for dinosaur bones at the playground’s sandpit, and discovering a mysterious fiber (probably dog hair), my nephew and I set out on a mystery hunt for other clues for our adventure (although what our goal was – was unclear). It was exciting nonetheless. Our hunt led us to a leaf skeleton and then onwards to the soccer/football field where my nephew saw a friend of his from school. Their greeting involved a very quiet, slow extension of hands that almost touched, while exchanging very shy little smiles, and then we all got to talking. Once his schoolfriend left with her sisters, I asked my nephew if it was time to go home, too.

He said not yet…Wanna run in the wind?

Well, how could I turn down an offer like that? I followed my nephew’s lead, and we started running around the uneven ground. I then remembered the raptors from the other day and extended my arms to be wings, mentioning that I was pretending to be a raptor. He said, oh yeah, me too!!

We ran around, flapping to stay aloft when the wind died down and also to run up the inclines… We flew in the sky together….screeching raptor-like sounds. My nephew shouted instructions about where we were going next and also to watch out for holes in the ground as we swooped far above them. He led us to a safe haven (the soccer net) to rest and perch when we were tired. Once the wind really picked up again, we leapt off the cliff and soared.

One of my favorite people who works with children, the imagination, and our innate connection to nature is Richard Lewis of The Touchstone Center for Children. His work inspires me greatly, and I certainly felt like my nephew and I played along…just as nature intended.