The exuberance of June and July has come and gone. It is mid-August and the sound of the cicadas reminds us that summer will not last forever. If we have not yet savored the lazy days of summer, it is time to do so. By savoring, I mean slowing down enough to pay attention and appreciate what is happening. If you have young children in your home, you might have noticed they are well-suited to these simple and slow pleasures. Adults can digest more sensory information, like to have purpose and seek intellectual stimulation, so planning has to take this into account. What can you do with a toddler or preschooler that will meet the needs of both child and adult? I suggest a walk along the Elmwood, Hertel, or any other commercial street that has window-shopping, people to greet, and child-friendly stores to visit.
Remember to put a hat with a rim on your child before putting him or her in the stroller to protect skin from burning and eyes from the glare of the sun. If you cannot walk to one of these areas, it’s worth finding a way to get there since it is an excursion that costs little and delivers much. You will want to make a plan for your outing, to include errand-running and a snack. For example, on Elmwood Avenue, you can walk to the Crane Library at the corner of Highland, to borrow or return books. While you are there, you might read a book to your child in the comfortable space which is possible whether or not you have a library card, but you could apply for one when you are there as long as you have identification. The card allows you to borrow from any of the libraries in the county.
Then you can window-shop or venture into stores along Elmwood until you reach the Lexington Coop between Auburn and Lancaster. Strollers fit in the newly expanded aisles as well as the spacious bathroom in the back of the store. When you are with a young child, it’s crucial to know where the nearest bathroom is at any time, even if it is only for washing hands and faces. You don’t have to be a member to shop at the co-op so you could buy groceries and a light snack to savor on the awning-covered outdoor tables. While there, you might run into someone you know, providing an opportunity to model social skills and while snacking, to enjoy your child’s company as well.
Continuing north on Elmwood, you can visit Bidwell parkway to allow your child to walk or run freely on the grass. If it’s Saturday, you can purchase seasonal produce and fresh food at the Farmers’ Market. Bring a backpack or bag you can store somewhere on your stroller so you are not overburdened by your purchases on the walk back. The farmers’ market accepts payment with a SNAP card. A bag of fruit will come in handy if your child gets hungry on the walk home. Peaches are a personal favorite but I have met few children who do not like to munch on a ripe, juicy apple. Once you have finished exploring the Elmwood Bidwell parkway, return your child to the stroller for the walk home. On the way back, consider walking down a residential street so you can take in the gardens, the homes, and the dogs, cats and bunnies that you encounter.
Remember that children learn by doing; experiences translate into concepts later. What has your child learned on this outing? Walking is a good way to get around; it provides exercise, costs nothing and does not contribute to air pollution. Buying local is not only good for the economy but can also be fun. They will learn about their physical environment and how to interact socially.
At the end of the outing, if your child is tired, but not over-stimulated, it might be time for lunch and a nap or dinner and bedtime. As you know, life with young children involves activities scheduled in between sleep and meals.
At the end of the day, or the summer for that matter, if we have truly savored it, we find it easier to meet the coming season or dare I say, seasons. Now is the time to savor sweet summer so get it while you still can!
Judith Frizlen is the founder, executive director, and parent-toddler program teacher at the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center (www.therosegarden.us). Author of Words for Parents in Small Doses, available at Talking Leaves book store on Elmwood Avenue. She and her husband, Karl, are Buffalo boosters who love to kayak and bicycle in the summer and cross country ski in the winter. They live in the Elmwood Village and have two adult children who have chosen to call Buffalo home.
Farmers’ Market image: Courtesy The Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market