When I was a kid, I didn’t love playing outside. It might have had something to do with the 98% humidity and all the mosquitos (they LOVE me).
Even so, I do have a lot of memories of playing outside with my sisters, and enjoying it. Okay, like tons of memories. Lots and lots of them. Bike rides, walks, exploring the neighborhood. Playing in our backyard. Hiding in the flowering bushes (camellias and lantana), swinging, gathering acorns for the squirrels, building forts, “cooking” with grass, dirt, and weeds, playing badminton, running through the sprinklers, and so much more.
So, maybe I did love playing outside, once I got going. I just didn’t initiate it all the time.
Yep, that must’ve been it. Because I can totally remember my dad kicking me (and my sisters) outside on occasions. And telling us to stay out there and play.
And yeah, I’m doing the same thing with my kids. It’s good for them.
When they’re bouncing off the walls like some kind of human pinball game, I tell them to go into the backyard and play, and not to come back in until [insert reason here].
Until you’re VERY TIRED. Until you’re ready for a bath. Until I call you in for dinner. Until you want to get into pajamas. Until you’re ready to clean up the playroom. Until this timer goes off.
Whatever the “until” is… they need to find something in the backyard to entertain themselves with.
This time, it was taking off their clothes and coloring all over each other with sidewalk chalk. This is how I found them when I glanced up from meal planning and writing my grocery list.
In case you didn’t know, wet sidewalk chalk makes amazing body paint. This isn’t the first time they’ve forayed into body art!
Other times, they dig holes, plant gardens with seeds they’ve saved from their snacks, build a fort, bounce on the mini trampoline, “paint” the fence with water… they always find SOMEthing to do.
Whatever it is, I just go with it.
They’re outside. In the sun. Making vitamin D and memories.
I don’t always have an easy time going with the flow, though I try. But outdoor play is one instance where it’s a simple choice for me. I want my kids to enjoy the outdoors. And I want them to enjoy each other. So if I find them having a great time in the backyard, and getting along well with each other? I’m grateful.
Sometimes I snap a few pictures. I ask them about their play. I MIGHT give them a suggestion for a way to expand their game, but usually they’ve got it handled.
And then, cautiously, as if I might wake a sleeping baby, I slink away to let them continue playing. It’s a careful dance. Sometimes the mere sight of me is enough to break their flow and make them ask to come back inside, so I tread lightly.
But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I stay out, run them a bubble bath in the kiddie pool, and spray them with the hose until they can hardly breathe from all the laughing.
When so much of our lives is scheduled, routine, or obligatory, it’s important to embrace the times when we can truly go with the flow. And outdoor play is one of those times.
It’s a break from the school schedule, the grocery shopping trips, the house maintenance, the bedtime routine. It’s a break from everything predictable and prescribed.
It’s a beautiful time to just go with the flow.