Monday, November 22, 2010

Harpeth Woods Trail Redux

With fall starting to fade, the family headed over to Edwin Warner State Park for a hike of the Harpeth Woods Trail. We made it around the near-three-mile loop in about two-and-a-half hours, but that time included a stop at the picnic area at the southern tip of the trail. There, we had snacks and drinks, and E reveled in her liberation from the child carrier. She had the best time playing on the small bridge nearby (see video below).

At the end of our hike, C and E played in a designated children's area close to the park's Nature Center, and as an observer, I found the whole scene thought provoking. I recently read Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods, a book that claims we're becoming a nature-deficit culture, and I was struck by two things about this playground. The first was that this "natural" space was still cordoned off by a log fence, ostensibly to keep children contained and somehow delineate the area as "safe." Louv writes about how children's play has become increasingly organized, circumscribed, and sanitized. The second noteworthy element involved how much fun the children had playing in and around a big lump of dirt, free of strictures about how they should play. This scenario supports core principles of Louv's book, which argues that children need unconstrained play in natural settings and that such play has important cognitive and social benefits.

Harpeth Woods Trail at Edwin Warner

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