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When I woke up this morning and heard the birds chirping outside my window, the first thought that came to my mind was, 'Lets go on a picnic'.
After all, the sun was shining and a light breeze drifted through the window so rather than waste a gorgeous Sunday at home, we packed up whatever food and drink we could find in the kitchen, a large soft blanket and some of Michael's favourite toys, and drove to La Almadraba Natural Park, a short ten minutes from Rota Naval Base, Spain.
La Almadraba Natural Park, a beautiful 200,000 sq2 park that fronts the Atlantic ocean is clustered with endless sand dunes, willowy pine trees, abundant wildlife and, clearly on this beautiful day, many 'picnicers' who just like us were enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
After a brief stroll along the wooden path that meandered through the park we found it. A small sand dune overlooking the park, partly shaded by a canopy of pine trees was the perfect spot to lay the blanket, kick off our shoes, and spread out our gourmet feast of green salsa chicken enchiladas (still warm courtesy of Chad's smashed tiles stone oven ), Santa Claus Melon chunks, ripe plums, BBQ chips, homemade chocolate chip cookies, water and organic juice boxes.
A brisk breeze whisked the gentle sounds of acoustic guitar Sevillana music and cheery Ole's through the trees. Children ran laughing, climbing trees, playing football, banging sticks against trees, building sand castles and just had fun without the aid of the endless spawn of technology that has almost removed children from enjoying and learning about their natural environment.
As a child I never had computer games, and TV was reserved for weekends. Playing, meant going outside and catching beetles (Michael's favourite), rolling down hills, digging holes and making daisy chains (my favourite although I'm a bit rusty now), and just getting dirty!
Nature was an everyday exploration and learning experience, not one reserved purely for the pages of a textbook. When was the last time that you sat at the foot of a tree and just looked up?
Is it just me or don't children seem to get dirty anymore or come home with grass stains on their pants, holes in their shoes, cuts on their hands or splinters in their feet?
I wonder how we can expect our children to develop an understanding of and respect for their natural environment, and be the next generation of protectors of this planet if they never turn off technology and explore it? I read a great article, Mud Pies and Daisy Chains that considers this very possibility.
I admit that technology (iPad) has been a lazy parent to Michael at times, although a brilliant one I'll admit on a 36-hour flight itinerary to Australia, however when he recently began calling for it before bed and then again first thing when he opened his eyes, I knew that we had fallen into the 'it's just easier' trap, one that we decided to break free of.
The iPad now is strictly a, 'Saturday morning cartoons' special treat, mainly because we don't have English television and there is only so much Hannah Montana that I can handle on a Saturday morning!
Although we venture out every other day and explore, today was the first time in a long time (years actually) that we have gone on a picnic and just played in the park...and it was WONDERFUL!
I cut my finger while digging a hole to make a stick house, Michael got a splinter in his foot while climbing a tree, Alena collected sticks while somewhat smiling (she's a 'tween' remember), and an angry beetle almost bit Chad on the hand...what more could I ask for?