Day 115–Go Play Outside!

My back yard would make Martha Stewart hurl.

I mean, we’re not all Sanford and Son or anything (I realize I am dating myself with that reference), but my back yard is a mash-up of a swing set that is almost never used for swinging, two Adirondack chairs and two painted children’s chairs. In addition, there are yards of tulle from some long forgotten project, a volleyball, a pink playground ball, a few leftover Halloween decorations and some pots full of Japanese maple seedlings that Ellie and the neighborhood children have “rescued”. Last weekend, the gang on our street managed to start an amateur worm farm and they somehow caught a vole that lived for a while in an empty strawberry bucket. His name was Doug (dug).

Martha Stewart it ain’t. I was feeling twinges of suburban guilt that my back yard is not picture perfect and sometimes I sense that other parents aren’t so thrilled with the freedom I give children in our yard. I mean, we have rules of a sort–it’s not Lord of the Flies. But parents want their kids to play organized games. They want them to swing nicely on the swing set. They don’t want them to get dirty. They need to get a grip.

So in my ever swirling realm of mommy-guilt, it is a relief to find that other people actually advocate for children to get outside and explore. And exploring can be messy. I don’t let Ellie roam the neighborhood by herself because today’s world is just too weird. But our backyard is ours–it is a place where she can explore. Where a swing set can be an animal hospital or a train or a fort. Adirondack chairs turned sideways can be a doghouse or a cave for Katniss Everdeen or a fairy house. Sometimes the dog has a role in these games, sometimes not. Does Ellie get filthy? Yes. Does she learn the hard way that sliding down the slide in our winter sled is not a good idea? Yes. Do I care if she is dirty? No.

Today, I opened up Twitter to find a new blog resource for getting our children outside and fostering their creativity in fun and inexpensive ways. It’s called Play Outside! Of course, this is an Australian blog–they seem to do the coolest things with outdoor education and children. They are compiling ideas in outdoor education from around the blogosphere and the database of ideas is searchable. So cool and such great timing for spring and summer! I think I’m going to try hanging a clothesline and a sheet for a curtain and see what kind of drama comes about!

You know, my daughter is 11 and I have just a few more years with her where she wants to play outside. There’s time for a Martha Stewart yard. But not yet.