My favorite gift to give my children right now is empty time to play and roam. Their rooms. Our house. A campsite. Our yard. I love to give them time and space to fill on their own.
My best and strongest memories of my childhood were filling the empty time that I was given. On Sunday afternoons my parents would nap while Joseph and I were left to ourselves. We loved to pack up stuff, take it outside, and turn one of our tiny porches into a ship. We loved pretend-boating.
I'm sure there is some science behind the benefits of children filling their own time, because my brother has told me about them. I'm not down on the science-I do it because it's fun and it's cool. (Plus, with Burl in school five days a week, I know that he needs his unstructured, unplanned time to be Burl.)
Burl, Fern, and Ridge are all at the ages and abilities where I can trust them outside. After school, we might grab a snack or change clothes, then we head to the front yard or back yard to play. Right now, I pretty much plop myself down in a chair and supervise from behind a book. Third trimester ain't kickball and frisbees...
Playing outside has become a rarity in our neighborhood, and we're on the hunt for friends who are free to play too. It's not that easy these days because everyone's schedules seem full. (We're known as the ones with "kids always playing in the front yard," like it's something unique.) I read my favorite parenting article ever recently about letting kids play. This was my childhood minus the adult-curated backyard. We made our own playgrounds. I pulled out my first teeth trying to pull a big wheel on top of my neighbors' treehouse. We moved our trampoline all over our yard to find places to jump off of. And yes, we even got on the roof (my brothers more than me). How we survived with no broken bones is always our wonder...
It wasn't that my parents RAISED us that way, like it was a conscience decision. It's just what we did. I often wonder about my involvement with my children's play. Sometimes I think I might hold them back in the name of safety, but not letting them develop can be more dangerous.
We will continue to play outside, while I overthink things once again. Am I too involved? Am I not involved enough? It's one of my favorite things to do with them, and they are actually each other's best playmates. Watching their worlds unfold to themselves is a sweet delight.
These pictures were taken a month ago.
Outside play currently looks different due to heavy smoke from forest fires.