Over time, children who meet each other regularly to play in the woods develop deep connections to each other. Of course, joyful immersion in a shared play scenario fully imagined, using only what they find in nature, creates memories that last. But enduring repeated shared trials and successes deepen the relationships. When they confront the challenges of play in the elements and adults decline to intervene, children learn how to help each other, validate each other’s achievements, and communicate with each other about the things that matter to them.
A child becomes frustrated while dragging a heavy log; the others step up to lift it together.
A child stretches out her hand to pull another up a slippery trunk to reach her. One below directs the child where to put her feet and reassures her, “You can do it!”
On a cold day, a child puts the glove on another's left hand. On a rainy day, children work together to hang a tarp on a branch for shelter (whether or not they're successful isn't the point!).
A child slips and falls, about to cry at the shock of it, when another stops to check her scrape and help her up.
"Hey, come look! I forgot that dogs can actually swim!" A child puts his arm around another to physically share the excitement.
Over time, children’s sense of accountability to and responsibility for others grows. When adults don't do so much for them, children do for each other! Learning how to identify and respond to another’s needs when things get tough (in academic terms, practicing other-oriented, prosocial behaviors) strengthens the social bonds that create a community of care.