By Christina VanGinkel
My grandson came for a visit this morning, and instead of doing the same old things we routinely do, I decided we would head to a park one town over from where we live. The park is located near a lake, and has docks to walk out on, a trail around the lake, and a small footbridge over a stream that runs into the lake. There is also a large playground that the community built several years ago, adjacent to the trail, and lake.
When we first arrived, we parked in the lot closest to the playground and entered there. My grandson, who is two, played on the swings, climbed a set of 'shakey' steps, and went down several slides. I made a note to myself that we would not visit the park with him again in the pants he was wearing today or any other pair in the same material. He came sliding down the one slide so fast that he flew off the end and landed on his back. He was okay, and was ready to go down again just a short while later, but only if he was sure that I was going to catch him each time.
After he played for about half an hour, I asked him if he would like to take a walk down the trail to one of the docks, with the temptation that we might see some fish off a dock if we were quiet. He was game, and we headed off down the trail. The trail is tree lined on both sides, and while the trail itself is paved, the sides are somewhat overgrown and very much in a natural state. At different times of the year, there is always an assortment of plants to see and small wildlife. We immediately spied a woodpecker working diligently on the hulk of a dead tree.
Midway down the first hill, we came to an area that had a tree tipped over. It was not in the trail, and appeared to have been there for some time. The roots of the tree were showing and the roots and bottom of the tree were on the large side, and dirt covered. My grandson came to a skidding halt and quickly told me that there was a dinosaur there, pointing to the roots of the tipped over tree. I responded that it was nothing to be afraid of, that it was just a tree. He looked at me as if I was the dumbest person on the face of the earth and told me that he knew that, he was just pretending. Then he gave me a quizzical look as if how could I not know that.
I responded with a surprised 'oh', and asked him if there were any other dinosaurs nearby. He pointed out several more and even a few pterodactyls as they flew overhead. To say that he ahs a vivid imagination would be correct. He often pretends about various things, with dinosaurs one of his favorite. I knew this, but was just a bit slow catching on his morning. We ended up walking all the way to the foot bridge which is about a quarter of a mile down the trail from where we started, at which point he also pointed out several sharks and whales that I in my old age did not see at first. (The whale was a log, and the shark was actually a car rim that someone not to intelligently tossed in. The stream was all of about two inches deep, what with the dry spring we have been having, so we decided to fish for the shark and deposit him into the nearest spaceship (a.k.a., garbage can) for a trip to the moon.
Overall, we ended up having a fun time on our walk, um I mean dinosaur expedition and shark fishing trip. I was once again reminded that the imagination is a wonderful thing that should be encouraged to the fullest in young children. I also managed to gather a few ideas for a children's story I am currently working on, and I could not think of a better way to spend some time with my grandson than naming pterodactyls as they flew overhead!