Exploring Free Play- Fostering Imagination and Growth

As a Gen X parent, I never quite understood why we “had” to fill our kids afternoons and free time with 10,000 activities (sports, club meetings, scouting, etc.). My brother and I didn’t have tons of stuff each day after school. By the time I was in the 5th grade, both my parents worked, and frequently we were left home alone for a few hours after school a couple times a week.

We did our homework, played, read, and did chores. Even before that, there were plenty of times where we were home without structured activities. We still had scouts, soccer (my brother did AYSO for one season and decided it wasn’t for him), Key Club, Choir, JV Football. Many kids in my generation were latchkey kids and filled their afternoons with free and imaginative play.

Free play is an incredible learning tool for kids. It fosters imagination and gives kids opportunities to discover and explore. There are all sorts of toys that encourage free play- dolls, food toys, blocks, legos, to name a few.

My two love Playmobil. Playmobil is a German company that has been around since the 1970’s. They have so many different sets and types of toys- everything from princesses and fairies to knights and safari sets.

A jungle adventure after preschool. Complete with a feast

Recently, my son and daughter started pulling out some of their people as well as some of the animals and created their own adventure. Enter Carl the Mongoose and Mr. Chicken. Carl is a Meerkat, and Mr. Chicken is a Bald Eagle, but the names have stuck.  Other characters include The Birdkeeper and The Man with the Gray Hat, and Cleopatrick (my daughter named her). All of these people are from various sets, Cleo was the only one that sort of resembles her name, as she came from an awesome set of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.

The animals and their people have all sorts of adventures. They have run a food truck, run a zoo, been on a cruise, gone on safari, hunted for wild animals, opened an iron and gold mine, run an orphanage (we have a lot of little kid Playmobil people), gone to college, gone to preschool, and taken a road trip to the “ocean” in Ohio. We paused the game for a bit to look at the US map to discover there is no ocean in Ohio, but they could go to Lake Erie instead. It was deemed the “Lake Erie ocean beach” adventure.

These adventures give the kids a chance to explore themselves and work on interpersonal relationships, even if it’s as a talking Bald Eagle and his keeper.

Even in these crazy times where nothing is certain, give your kids some time to play and explore. Taking a “brain break” (which is what the big kiddos teacher calls them) throughout the day for some playtime may help your kids more than you think.

Right now we are all home together, trying to scramble into some sort of routine of distance learning, being quiet while we all learn/work, breaks, and trying to play after school is over without making too much noise while grown ups work. It’s tough. It’s crazy. The house is messy, we’re frazzled, and we weren’t “with it” last week to follow our meal plan. But we got through it, and we’re trying again this week.

We’re all learning. And that means we should grant ourselves grace.

Be kind to yourself. Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve. Have a good week!

 

Super Busy Summer!

I haven’t had much time to sit at the computer and write lately, but we’ve been busy! There are so many free and frugal things to do in the summer, and we haven’t even done a 1/3 of what we have planned!

Here are just a few of the adventures we’ve been having (and you can try them too)!

 

 

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Henry’s Handiwork!

Rock Painting!  Some of you have seen pictures of the painted rocks we’ve been making, hiding, and finding all over town on my Instagram feed.  Santee Rocks was started by a local teacher to spread kindness.  There are lot of other “rocks” groups all over San Diego, and the US! We even hosting a Rock Painting party at a local park! Over 30 people showed up, painted, and played. We hope to host another one in July.

We’ve also been hitting up our local libraries for all sorts of fun events and activities. Our favorite is the El Cajon Library. They serve lunch M-F, 11:30-12:30.  Afterwards there are a variety of events and activities from special speakers, concerts, and even crafts! And they even serve an afternoon snack!

There is a small play area for kids with an interactive discovery structure, and a Duplo Wall! There is a shaded playground out front as well. It’s a great way to spend a few hours in a climate controlled place without visiting the mall or any place where you might spend money. We usually end up bringing home a few library books too.

We’ve been on adventures with friends! Playing T-ball at the park and going on the hunt for decorated rocks was the biggest hit so far.

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Playing dress up is a frequent stay at home activity. Here we have the Pirate T-Rex, trick or treating for meat.

And of course, We spend time at home, doing crafts, swimming in the community pool, playing Legos, and just hanging out!

I’m of the mind that summer doesn’t need to be packed with activities sun up to sun down. Frequently, we spend our time at home spending time together. We have friends over to play, but it’s super low-key.

I’ve taking a break from trying to pound out an article or post each day. I want to spend time with the kids and family.

What kinds of activities and adventures has you family been having this summer?

 

It’s Spring!

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It’s Spring and we’ve been busy!

Spring break starts on Monday for us, and that’s two weeks of fun! To keep us busy I’v planned a trip to the San Diego Zoo and a Scavenger Hunt at a local park. Those event are open to anyone who wants to come, so if you’re in San Diego and you’d like to join us, check out the event pages on Facebook!

In addition, we’re doing a tie dye day (using clothing I picked up at two recent local clothing swaps), beach day, trip to the local splash pad, and daily trips to the YMCA for child watch (and so I can exercise!).

Besides spring break planning, Lil’ Man and I have been planning out our spring garden. We love growing strawberries, and thankfully one of our plants survived last year.  Using a Lowe’s gift card I earned from our American Express Rewards card, I picked up some planters and soil.

We’re going to plant carrots, radishes and peas from seeds. I’ve gotten some free seeds in the mail (poppies-our state flower) that we’ll be planting too. Lil’ Man loves Cacti, we’re planning on getting some different types of “spiky plants”.

I’m also doing some spring cleaning and sharing some treasures with my local Buy Nothing Group. I love that I’m able to share with my neighbors and keep the stuff that’s still in good repair out of landfills!

So What are you up to this spring?