This past Sunday was our annual Winter Party. Armed with s’more supplies, our two portable campfires, snow paint, shovels, tea and hot chocolate, we welcomed 30-40 kids and their parents to the Marché des possibles, one of our favorite local green spaces, despite some pretty unforgiving temperatures (-10 plus a nasty wind chill and a layer of frozen ice under the snow!). While a lot of the faces were familiar, we were happy to see plenty of new friends and friends of friends out for the occasion!
When planning events and programs for kids, it’s easy to overlook the benefits that they have for parents too. While the kids were happy playing on one of the two huge mountains of snow, I had the pleasure of hunkering down with a group of parents by the fire as their kids popped in from time to time. It was wonderful to watch the parents hand down “techniques” for marshmallow roasting and to hear them share stories about their own experiences sitting around campfires. We exchanged songs and summer camp stories. There was a sense of nostalgia within the group, and I could feel a certain stirring of emotions as everybody chatted or perhaps reflected on the experiences they’d shared around a fire– whether it was weekend trips with their family to the woods every Sunday in rural Poland, working as a camp counselor in the Eastern Townships, high school bonfires, or scouting trips.
It was beautiful to see such reverence in the eyes of adults. In my work as an educator and playworker, I spend so much time focused on the reverence that kids experience in nature, or how kids benefit from play, that I sometimes forget how it touches the adults in their lives. After all, the memories that I have of my own experiences in nature and around campfires as a kid are a huge part of why I enjoy working as a Forest School educator. Last weekend, I was happily reminded that as grownups we need to play too and that we all benefit from a little time together in nature, roasting marshmallows and sharing stories around a campfire.
I heard so many kids ask their parents as they were leaving if they could “go camping”, “have a picnic”, or “make a fire” at home/next weekend/in the summer. I’m sure many of these kids already share these kinds of adventures with their parents, but I like to think that the event served as a gentle reminder in the harshness of Montreal winters that there are many ways to share in the joys of nature and play within our communities, even in the heart of the city!