“Um, Did you know that Olivia is outside balancing wood on the chairs to walk on?” – Jen
“Brilliant! Finally!” – Me
Cue the sideways glance.
This was a recent conversation I had with a babysitter as I was on my way out to a doctor’s appointment. After eighteen months of hearing nothing but ‘I’m bored’ after a few minutes of play and having to set a timer so they would actually play outside in the back yard like they do in the open space at the playground, it’s happened, they’ve figured it out with a little help from us removing those brightly colored toys from the back yard and giving them actual space to play.
Something happened when we got rid of those brightly colored toys out of the backyard.
Honest play happened.
There’s a leftover castle out there, that serves as a fort and a place to rescue the princess who’s let down her hair, or hide from the dragon that likes to lurk under the deck, but the other stuff? It’s all been removed. The pool, the trampline, the plastic ride on toys, the brightly colored sports equipment. We’re embracing fall with a toy free backyard.
Earlier today, I tasked Olivia with the chore of taking outside all of the extra water cooler jugs from the basement to the garage. Going out to the garage to leave later that day, I asked her what happened and why they hadn’t made it to the garage. Scattered all over the back yard, she told me that they made ‘wonderful music’ and she couldn’t put them away. She proceeded to demonstrate her ‘wonderful music’ which was pretty much loud banging that rocked me to my core, eighteen inches away from my face, but she was so overjoyed with her discovery.
Those 6 empty water cooler bottles? They’ve become a staple in outdoor play; an obstacle course, they’ve been used for oversized bowling and they’ve been filled with rain. Pallets have been used to make tents, to create boats and to make old-school forts, and the kids? They’ve played independently in the backyard more in the past three weeks, unprompted, without Siri timing them to stay outside for twenty minutes, than they have in the past year.