We want our children to grow up to find their own way through life, but it's hard to let them go first on busy city streets! In the woods, though, we can invite children to choose their own path; we let them lead the way. Here, they get much-needed practice being agents of their destinies. When adults lag behind children get ahead, learning leadership and so much else!
They debate and decide together which way to go, especially when paths diverge—sometimes discovering that different paths can lead to the same end.
They test boundaries: Do you tread where others have gone, or do you make your own way? They navigate obstacles in the way, respecting others' right to share the space.
Walking ahead, they communicate with each other in animated engagement—building relationships and sharing joy! Children who struggle with conversation join in too, maybe finding it easier to share their thoughts when all eyes are facing forward.
When a peer is slow, or scared, natural empathy kicks in: They walk alongside, or they take a hand and show another where to step.
Most children thrill at the chance to get out in front and leave the adults trailing behind! The pride that comes from getting where you wanted to go, the surprise of discovering someplace new, even the regret over the path not chosen . . . Children need to experience all of these to learn how to lead with confidence, and, no less important, to learn how to follow with grace.