Claire has fallen in love with a book we recently checked out from the library. The book, called Listening Walk, is the story of a little girl who goes on a walk with her dad and her dog. On the walk, no talking is allowed. Only listening. As the story progresses, the girl describes the sounds she hears. Claire loves the onomatopoeia in the book, and all of the rat-tat-tat-tats and thhhhmmmms and brrrrmmmms are good phonic practice for her.
When I asked Claire what she wanted to do over the weekend, she enthusiastically suggested that we go on a listening walk. So on this sunny Sunday afternoon, we left a sleeping baby and an exhausted mommy at home, and Anna, Claire, and I headed in the direction of the forest preserve.
The forest preserve is three-and-a-half blocks from our front door. That makes it a seven block round trip. Wanna guess how long the "listening" part of the listening walk lasted? If you guessed less than a half of a block, you are correct. We made it about fifteen paces before Anna said, "I'd really prefer to talk as we go" -- a suggestion quickly seconded by Claire.
I had no qualms with the revised "talking walk" plan. Why pass up a chance to talk to the kids?
So the girls trotted along, chattering about school, Star Wars, sticks, Angelina Ballerina, houses, stinky cheese, dessert, and (oddly enough) listening walks. I mostly listened.
As we neared the forest preserve, though, the girls became oddly conspiratorial. Since the walk had initially been suggested, the girls had talked and talked about wanting to go to the forest preserve. But as soon as it was in sight, I caught snippets of whisperings like this:
"How many paths are there?"
"Which one is the fast way out?"
"I think it's the first one... or the second one. But don't tell Dad."
Once we were in the preserve, the girls became noticeably impatient. I tried to coax them into tip-toeing in and listening for deer. They would have none of that. I attempted to stop them and point out wood peckers and squirrels. They barely listened. And with each fork in the path, they became noticeably consternated.
As I meandered along the winding paths, the girls would continually run ahead, and then dart back, telling me to turn around and head back to the last fork in the path. After three false starts, the girls finally found their bearings and with giddy glee galloped off. I followed, and as I rounded the final bend in the path, I understood.
There was the playground. Okay, three playgrounds. The nature preserve was nice and all... but it was the giant paradise of colorful steel and plastic that my children were after.
The girls climbed towers, scooted down slides, swung on swings, and gingerly crossed balance beams. We hit every one of the three playgrounds. Walls were scaled. Springs were sprung. Surprisingly, no bones were snapped.
On the way home, the girls busied themselves choosing "light sabers" from the jetsam of gardening stakes and fallen branches piled in alleys along our route.
Again, I did my best at just listening. And all I heard were happy tones.
In my mind, that's a successful listening walk.