It’s finally summer. It’s hard to forget when you were a kid and that final school bell rang, signaling the end of the school year. You could hardly wait to get home, throw your backpack in the closet and get outside and play in the warm sun. So, what did my kids do when they got home from their last day of school… they immediately went to their rooms and got on their computers. They were excited that they had no homework to finish first. They could just dive right into building a new world on Minecraft. I informed them how beautiful it was outside. They had no interest. Was this what it was going to be like all summer long? Yes, I could order them to play outside but I, too, was happy school was out and I could take a reprieve from being the task master. So, what could I do to entice them to go outside and make it seem like it was their idea? Then I remembered the line from the movie Field of Dreams; “If you build it, they will come.” I just needed to figure out what it was I needed to build.
Whenever I’m looking for inspiration, I know I usually can find something in the basement. There’s all sorts of stuff down there. It didn’t take long before I spotted it…a camping tent. I lugged it up the stairs and dragged it into the backyard. I didn’t mention it to the kids, just started setting it up. I saw the first two gather at the window. I had peaked their interest. The youngest opened the door and stuck his head out, “What are you doing, mom?” “I’m setting up the tent,” I responded casually. “Why are you doing that?” he asked cautiously. “No reason.” I tried to sound nonchalant. “Can we play in it?” BINGO. “Sure, if you want.” I heard him yell upstairs to the other kids, “Mom set up a tent outside. Come here and take a look!”
All three of them happily logged off their computers and ran outside to play in the tent. If they build it, they will come. I let them use their own imagination to decide what to use the tent for. First it was a jail, then a hideout, then some sort of protective forcefield area – depending on what make-believe theme they were acting out. They were outside on a beautiful summer’s day, and they were using their creative imagination. As they say, everything old is new again. Sometimes all you need to stimulate your children’s interest is to go into the basement and resurrect something they haven’t seen in awhile that can be used as a prop. It’s been a week and that tent is still out there and every time the kids see it out the window it entices them back outside with a new scenario they’ve thought up. Two of my kids are pre-teens now and so they don’t partake in imaginary play as often, but by utilizing a more “grown-up prop” like a camping tent, not even they could resist. So, if you’re trying to get your kids to explore their creative side outside this summer, remember back to what you used to like to play as a child when school was out, and “set the scene” – strategically place things around your yard (a box of chalk on the driveway, material for a fort on the side yard, imaginary play props among the trees) and then sit back and watch the magic happen.