Adults walk with purpose, with a clear destination in mind. For the child this is not so, he walks to explore his surroundings with all his senses engaged: sight, sound, taste and touch. A walk is an adventure, a journey without a destination, an exciting opportunity to see the world! The child is fascinated with detail: a petal, a twig, a rock – all hold great excitement. He does not stay on the straight and narrow path but rather wanders wherever his eyes and heart take him – interested in everything in his sight. What joy to see an ant, a ladybug, a butterfly, and all the wonders close to the ground? We forget as adults, that the child sees the world from a different perspective, sees so many things that we miss as we look up and out, away from the forest floor.

As a frequent user of a well-known trail in my community, I am among the many thousands of local residents who spend countless pleasant hours on its paths, appreciating all that it has to offer. For me it is an opportunity not only to exercise but to observe nature, in particular, human nature. I love to watch families enjoying this little bit of heaven away from the noise of traffic and daily life, and I particularly enjoy watching the young children.

On a recent Saturday, I couldn’t help but slow down to witness the squeals of sheer joy of a toddler who had just discovered a small leaf fluttering in the breeze as he gave chase. On the pretense of readjusting and re-lacing my shoes, I sat down to observe him more fully as he ran back and forth delighting in the wonders surrounding him. Kudos to his parents for not hurrying him along; for standing patiently and waiting while he explored, and for sharing equally in his joyous moments.

Contrast this to my observations further along the trail when I came across another family with a toddler, this time in a stroller. The child, obviously old enough to walk, was strapped in tightly, squirming and fussing to get out while chastised by mom who was eager to finish the trail as part of her exercise regime. The child was eventually given her computer tablet for consolation.

On my return route, I passed both families again. The child in the stroller was still fussing and crying (but mom had made good time!). The first family was not much further along from where I had originally encountered them, but I could still hear the laughter and squeals of joy as I approached them once more.

Which child do you think had the most fun? Which child will grow up with a sense of wonder and awe? Which child is yours?