2014 26/03

Learning to Play

The majority of the first 7.5 years of our parenting life, our family lived in a condo surrounded by a neighborhood in our suburban town. “Play” consisted of deliberate trips to the local parks or indoor play areas or activities in the small yard or riding bikes around our cul-du-sac.

All toys needed to be picked up and put away at the end of playtime (per the associations rules) and all outdoor activities needed to be parent-supervised, because, heaven forbid the adults on our street actually watch for kids as they were driving through. It all became more of a nuisance than fun. For any of us.

Now we live on ten acres of semi-wooded land with very few neighbors. A kid’s paradise! And, yet, I’m finding that we are having to teach our kids what it means to play. What it means to explore. What it means to be a kid.

They are constantly looking to me for direction as to what they should do during the day. What now? What’s next? And, for fear they might miss out on something, they keep their area of play right next to me.

I grew up very differently than my kids. Rarely did we have adult supervision outside of school. We explored the woods around our house. Climbed trees. Created forts out of junk. Explored an orchard by an old, run-down farmhouse that we were convinced was haunted. Swam in a river that required wearing shoes because the riverbed was covered in sharp rocks and broken glass.

We rode our bikes, without helmets, seven miles (partly down a busy highway) to the bar our grandparents owned and lived above. We rode in the back of pick-up trucks. Without seat belts. Drove four-wheelers and three-wheelers (also known as the death machine) and only strapped on helmets when friends were over.

We jumped from swings only when it reached it’s highest point. We only got off the spinning metal merry-go-round when we flew off or needed to puke.

We were kids. Sometimes I’m not sure how we survived some of those things and can only credit it to the grace of God. But we did. And I wouldn’t change it.

With the weather {slowly} warming up here, we are changing up the rules. TV, iPads and handheld games will only be used on rainy days. Playdates, trips to the park, and days at the beach will be special outings, not every week occurrences. I want them to experience true boredom so they can begin to appreciate everything they actually have around them and begin to unlock all the possibilities.

I want to reconvene at dinner time and hear about all their adventures that day, as they brush off their dirty clothes and wipe the sweat from their sun-kissed faces.

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