Experiencing the Elements at the Playground
I am pleased to be a new member of the PaganPages family. Welcome to Pagan Parenting Every Day. Each month we will be exploring topics that relate to every day parenting with a pagan spin. As a new parent looking for articles that relay parenting topics through a pagan perspective I find a lack. I hope to address this gap and bring ideas to the table for discussion, learning and pondering.
Before we get to this month’s topic I’d like to say that the views presented here are based on one pagan parent’s perspective. I am not trying to advocate a “pagan way” to parent, as I believe that as each child is different, so is each parent and each pagan in tern. Rather, I am hoping to create a dialogue for parents and offer up some parenting styles, tips, methods, activities and issues. The wide world of parenting is often daunting and a sense of support in our community can be a blessing to us all. I also welcome questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. You can contact me at stonegirl1177 AT yahoo DOT ca. And now onto our topic for this month: Experiencing the Elements at the Playground.
As North American society has moved away from predominately dwelling on farmsteads and into urban lifestyles city parks have become a nature refuge. As pagans many of us think that getting into nature, meaning out of the city and into a National park, camping, etc. is the only way to experience the elements. But other than our 2 or 3 weeks a year of vacations, or our weekend day trips how can we bring the lessons and just plain fun of the elements into our children’s lives? Some urban dwellers have backyards where they can explore the elements with their kids but if you don’t, or even if you do and you are looking for a change try taking a walk to your local playground. The power and wonder of the elements are right there waiting for you and your family to appreciate them.
Swings and slides are perfect tools for really experiencing air. Pumping your legs, you move faster and faster. The air is all around you, blowing your hair and for kids who have a hard time understanding what they can’t see or feel in the moment this movement helps air, the invisible element become tangible. Not to mention swinging is fun. For toddlers and babies this aspect of motion is as far as you’ll need to take the activity. Although you can repeat “Wind!” with glee in your voice to let them associate the sensations they are having with air. For older children you can talk about the sensations they feel and mention some air correspondences like communication and the intellect.
Fire is not an element you openly see at parks. It is not something you really want to encourage either. But the big ball of fire in the sky can be your children’s plaything in its own way. Shadow play is very entertaining. Running and playing shadow tag, seeing the interesting shapes that you can make and for older kids you can talk about the length of your shadow and how that corresponds to the different time of day as the sun moves from east to west. If it is a particularly warm day you can also teach even toddlers about the wonder of shade cast by trees or a nearby building. You can move from the sun to the shade and experience the sensations of fire through the intense heat of the sun.
Water parks with their spraying are of course great to experience on hot summer days and a very fun way to play with water. If you are out after a rain puddles can hold a wonderland of enjoyment for kids of all ages. If your playground has a drinking fountain that is a great way to start a dialogue about the precious nature of water. Even if your local playground has no water available for play or drinking you can bring some in a thermos or water bottle. As children play they inevitably get thirsty, as they break for a drink they can think about how the body is mostly water and why they need to replenish their supply after they exert themselves. Perhaps they can carry their own water bottle and this can be a great lesson in understanding the precious nature of water as a resource.
Sand boxes, pebbles, grass, wood chips, there can be many surfaces at the playground that are earthy. Sand boxes are endless in possibilities for play: mud pies, drawing in the sand with sticks, shoveling, sand castles, and just getting dirty are all great ways to interact with mother earth. Rolling down grassy hillsides, climbing trees, the reassuring thud of the earth beneath on a see-saw, share earth’s rhythms with your child and you can also chant if the mood strikes. If your neighborhood playground is on concrete there is usually some crack somewhere with plants pushing up through it. What a powerful lesson to learn about, how even a substance as strong as concrete can be severed by the earth and strong plants will reclaim the space if left to their own devices.
Regardless of time constraints and nature access you can have family adventures with the elements in urban settings. All it takes is some imagination and a desire to be in the moment. A healthy dose of spirit can make our neighborhood sacred regardless of how much vegetation is around us. We are nature; nature is with us in each moment, just waiting for us to notice.