I let five boys play in “the pond” during after school on Friday. They got a little wet and dirty and they loved it. Imagine that.
“The pond” is a rain garden sandwiched between our parking lot and a cell phone tower. It’s a little bit of wild in an urban setting. It’s a place where chorus frogs sing, a pair of mallards nest and native plants grow.
It was fun to watch the boys create their own fun in this little spot of nature.
Arden, the thinker of the group, talked to the ducks and wondered what they were saying. Joe and John immediately started building a bridge across the pond with boards that were lying around. The other boys chipped in and added to the structure. They all enjoyed walking on the tipsy structure they built, trying hard not to fall in.
Joe was the ring leader and sloshed through the water – about one foot deep – to complete the bridge. A free spirit, he begged me to let him take his pants off. I smiled and said No! That didn’t keep him from asking again. It was fun to watch Joe plop the boards into place with a splash…with his pants on.
Kids don’t get many opportunities for this kind of play anymore. When I was a kid, we tramped around in the woods all the time. There was more freedom and open space available then and parents weren’t as concerned about their kids. Today, you can’t just go out and build a fort in the local woods anymore without getting into trouble.
That’s why it’s important to let kids play in unstructured environments as much as possible. They need permission to do this whenever and wherever possible. As summer approaches, I’ll be thinking of ways to build in time for unstructured play.
What are you doing to offer kids time to create in the outdoors.
You can find Diane Schwartz sloshing around with kids at the Goodman Community Center. Her next trip is April 16th to the UW-Arboretum where the kids will be picking garlic mustard and having a picnic. Thanks for reading. Be sure to “like it” and share it with your friends.