Before there were houses and roads and shops and playgrounds, children played. They didn’t need toys or electricity — nature was their playground and they played with whatever they could gather. How often do I give my own children that gift?

Sometimes I become so comfortable in suburbia that I forget what it can be like for children to play in a truly natural environment. And I’m not just talking about an outing to the outdoors. How often do I let my daughters roam and explore a place that’s not landscaped for safety?

Today we took a walk on the wild side and trekked across cow paddocks, uncertain of what we would discover but enjoying the fruits (passion-fruit) and flowers (jasmine) along the way. We were led to a natural playground just fabulous for children to explore — a collection of fallen trees in a shallow, swampy marsh.

4yo Brioni in a natural playground, August 2010
Earlier on our walk, we picked bouquets of jasmine, and the scent surrounded us as we started to play.

Brioni, 4yo, + Lauren, + Delaney, 8 months old, August 2010
There were some big trees that kindly provided shade for me and Delaney (without too many fresh cow patties around).

The girls clambered over fallen melaleuca trees whose branches provided pathways over the water. They tested their balance, found their own handholds and forged new games.

It was interesting to watch how the veneer of civilisation slowly fell away. At first, the girls were hesitant about getting wet. Soon it became inevitable, and their shoes filled with mud. Then the girls removed their shoes and played so much more freely.

After observing these steps to freedom, I should remember next time to simply suggest the girls take off their shoes in the first place! But, I, too, am often bound by the constraints of society and find myself out in the wild, still trying to locate a “clean” spot in which to sit down, so I don’t get sullied by the good, clean dirt that covers this whole Earth!

Brioni, 4yo, + Aisha, 5yo, August 2010
At this point, the girls were still trying to stay dry and clean — carefully inching along the branch.

Aisha, 5yo, August 2010
Exploring a different, natural playground with excellent climbing equipment.

Calista, 2yo, + Brioni, 4yo, + Aisha, 5yo, August 2010
Brioni delighted in finding new plants to show me, and Calista spotted a frog.

This was a fantastic spot to discover — our new favourite playground. And it’s just an easy walk away from our house! David’s talking about taking the girls camping here, next time I’ll definitely bring my camera and try to capture some “arty” shots, and the girls — well, they won’t even ask before they take their shoes off and wade into the swamp!

On the way home, we picked some mushrooms and cooked them up for lunch. This is what life should really be like — exploring and enjoying nature and then feasting on its delights! Thank you, God.