Oh, to watch little minds work! The imagination, the detail, the energy the put into their play!
The best neutral ground, I’ve found is OUTSIDE. Our rule is “Inside toys stay inside,” so any possessive tendencies to any one toy is left at the threshold to the playground that is our backyard. It’s only fixtures are a molded plastic Fisher-Price toddler playhouse that they’re really getting to big for, a metal swing set, and thanks to Santa, a battery-powered Jeep. But, as Dr.Seuss says, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”
The kids are old enough now that I can let them do their own thing without being right on top of them. I’ll be pulling weeds, and hear all their plans to “get the bad guys” with their stick swords, stir up some dirt cupcakes with–well–DIRT, or ‘fly’ across the backyard as the latest super hero that’s caught their attention (We’re into Voltron right now.)
I sit back and watch as their plans become adventures.
I struggled for a long time trying to ‘fill the time’ with projects, games, and things to do to keep them busy, that I forgot about just letting them be kids! It’s not a bad thing, but they don’t always need to have a crayon in their hand or paint on their fingers, or icing in their hair to constitute an afternoon well spent! Heck, let them run around and play!
Even days when they’d rather stay inside, there’s something magical about fresh air. In seconds, they’re sailing the high seas on a pirate ship–aka the play house. (I’ve been rescued from backyard sharks countless times by these good- samaritan-pirates.)
And, I always love to find unsolicited garden excavation–I had several ‘suprise’ sunflower sproutings last summer. You just have to laugh at the care they took to dig out your already-planted-painstakingly-weeded flower bed to redesign their own. Those sunflowers were the prettiest part of my garden, by the way!
Anyway, I say all that to say that I love my kids. I love watching them imagine. I love seeing them wrap their minds around an idea, then trying it out. I love how it challenges me to do the same. I love letting them be kids.