Being outside has always been my son’s preference, and I will give him the credit at pulling me out of the house, and getting me active once again. He loves going down the slide, climbing anything he can climb, and pretending he is on a boat/spaceship/ school bus, etc. I enjoy watching him do all of this, and even more when he invites me in his fantasy. This is supposed to be a safe place where energy can be dissipated in a safe environment so that kids can play. However, at our favorite park, there have been more “older kids” just sitting and waiting for something to happen. While they are waiting, they usually have stuck to sitting on benches away from the playground, but as the weather has warmed up there are more people and “those waiting for something to happen” have moved closer and closer to the playground, until they are actually sitting on the equipment, moving to this spot as children are playing. Bad enough, right? It gets worse. While on the equipment they were smoking, loudly arguing using unimaginative language, and fighting. Our boat/spaceship/ school bus has been infiltrated by pirates.
Before we found ourselves asked to walk the plank, we decided to take a break from that park, and use our imagination more.
The other day we went to a wilderness park, where we were able to use the original playground equipment, trees, ponds, hills, and open space. Much like the playground, there are still the dangers of falling down and skinned knees, but we did not encounter any pirates, and we were able to have fun enjoying nature. While the playground was always the safe choice for fun, we found a great blessing in just playing around and exploring. The important thing about play is not the specific equipment, but in the fact that children are incredibly inquisitive and have the ability to make the most out of their environment. As a parent I have looked and searched for the “best” playground with the most equipment , but I am reminded that a child’s mind is the best piece of equipment.
As a father I have sought to give my son all the tools and toys to foster his imagination. I don’t buy him every toy, but, as we sit in his room playing looking around at all the toys we aren’t playing with, I recognize that I have purchased too many toys. I have thought this is cool, or that will be fun to play, I forgot that the key to play is not the toy, but the child playing. The Almighty created my son with a mind and a body made for play. I need to remember that there is nothing and no place that will ever be anything more than the thing or place is seen to be in the eyes and mind of my son.
As an adult I am just like that, I find myself bored, and that life will just be better if I get a new this or that. Maybe an iPad will do the trick? Nope. Not even the iPad2 is better than the Creator’s natural gifting. We have become old, and our equipment might be rusty, but if we shake off the dust, we will find the best tools and toys occur naturally.
Perfect is not found in places or things, because just like The Boss says, “Baby we were born to run,” and climb, and play. So whatever your preferred play, use the natural tools we have been given, and stop relying upon all our toys and equipment.