The rain pattered against the sidewalk as I took a peek out the window. My coworker gave me a look that said, “this is going to be a mess when we come back inside.” But we began getting the children ready in their multicolored rain boots, eager to feel the sensation of mud and water cover themselves completely. One little girl carefully slid her red coat up her arms and then ever so gently zipped it all the way up keeping a poised straight face the entire time. She slipped her small feet into her rainbow glitter rain boots and walked slowly to the door. When I opened the door, all of the children fumbled through the door. Everyone but one little girl. She slowly walked out the door still holding onto the straight face and the perfect posture. The rain was coming down harder now and puddles were covering each corner of the sidewalk. Every child was smiling and giggling as they ran and splashed through puddles. Everyone but one little girl. She stood there and watched as her classmates got coated in mud and water. Each child’s hair was sticking to their head from the rain and each child was smiling. Everyone but one little girl.
But all of a sudden, something changed. I looked at the little girl that was standing next to me and said, “You know, you can do that too.” Awe filled her eyes as she looked up at me and a smile broadened across her face. She said, “I can?” With a mix of confusion and excitement. I nodded at her and she slowly walked over to the puddle. She dipped the tip of her rain boot into a puddle and the smile got even bigger. I watched as her confidence grew and she stepped her whole foot into the puddle. A small giggle escaped and to my surprise, she started running. And not only did she start running through the puddle, she began feeling the water with her fingers, pressing her boots into the mud, and jumping around the sidewalk, covering herself with water. At one point, she placed her hands at her waist, pointing them outwards, forming wings. She waddled through the puddle and looked at me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on her. “I’m a duck! Look, I’m a duck!” She giggled to herself again and continued to waddle through the puddles. In the span of forty five minutes, I saw this child grow tremendously.
By simply playing, more specifically playing outside, her confidence grew immensely and you could see it across her face. She got to work on her gross motor skills by running and jumping and splashing through the mud and water. She got to take on different roles as she waddled through the puddles. In the span of 45 minutes, this child, along with every other child, grew in some way. I believe that by allowing children to play and by allowing children to experience new and exciting experiences in the form of play, children are able to grow and learn. The children were more engaged then I have ever seen and they were happier than I have ever seen. By simply allowing the children to play, I was allowing them to learn. The little girl now smiles as she slips on her rainbow glitter rain boots. And I now smile at my coworker giving her a look that says, “this will be fun to watch them grow.”