I read an article a few weeks ago about a playground in Great Britain that looked more like a junkyard than a playground. It had old mattresses, crates, wooden pallets, a walker for elderly people, and fire pits in it. The philosophy behind this playground is that it is there to help children use their imaginations, overcome fears, and learn life lessons about cause and effect. It is called “The Land.” The article went on to say that the playgrounds in America have gotten stale and boring due to a slew of lawsuits that occurred in the late eighties and nineties. It also stated that parents now hover over their kids, never letting them out of their sights for fear that they will get hurt or kidnapped. These are real fears, but they are hindering our children’s independence and ability to grow up normally. I can honestly say that I totally agree with this article, even though I am guilty of some of its findings.
Here is the link to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-l
After reading the article, I better understood the reason why my kids do some of the things that they do. I also decided that I needed to change the way some things were done around my house. The next day, I went out into the front yard and trimmed back the hedges along the front of the house. Now, when I say I “trimmed them back” I don’t mean that I trimmed the front of the bush. No, I trimmed out the back of the bush next to the house so that the kids could have a secret place to play while outside. Kind of like a fort. I then started to let them play in the front yard without me watching them the whole time. They are smart enough not to go into the street – that is not the problem. The problem was me living in fear of them being snatched up by a stranger. I have taught them a bit of “stranger danger” and have to trust that God has them under his protection and that they have listened to what I have told them. They aren’t out there for hours unattended, but they are out there for ten to twenty minutes while I prepare dinner. Kids do need to be supervised, but they can still play outside or walk one block home from the bus stop (which kids in my relatively safe neighborhood do not do).
Now, as for explaining why they do the things that they do, that was easy. My kids never play with their toys. We could get rid of all of them and they would not even notice. They play with the dress up clothes, bikes, roller skates, balls, microphones and instruments…that is all. One of their favorite things to do is to roll up the large area rug in the living room, push it long ways down the stairs and turn it into a slide. Seriously!! They also enjoy taking all of the cushions off the couch building a great big pile with them. The rope that they found a week ago has gotten lots of use as well.
Today we went to the playground with my friend Erin and her two kids. We ordered pizza and hoped to stay at the playground for a few hours around dinner time. Unfortunately, it started to drizzle as soon as we sat down. You would think that we would have left….nope, we didn’t. The kids played in the rain on the soccer field in 50 degree weather. Not once did they complain or go onto the playground equipment. They kicked dirt on the baseball field and then started pulling big logs and throwing sticks into a big pile. They loved it! We were there for over an hour, sitting in the rain, and watching the kids have a great time just being kids. That is why Erin and I are friends, we are both laid back enough to almost feel guilty for not leaving when it started to rain, but smart enough to know that if the kids are having fun, then don’t rock the boat!
All of this to say that kids need to be kids. We have to let them have fun and not be so worried about injury, dirt, or messes. They also don’t need to be showered with toys because most likely, they won’t play with them anyway.
I have decided to end this post with one of my new favorite pictures which completely encompasses everything I have just said about letting kids have some good old fashion, dirty fun! This picture was taken at my mom’s house just after they tilled up the garden and then watered the dirt. This also happens when you leave DaDa (Steve) in charge of the kids. Again, good old fashion fun!