One of the most powerful, inspiring, and helpful books I’ve read in the past year is Amanda Blake Soule’s the creative family. Chock-full of ideas and brimming with beauty and delight, it has become a sort of guide book for the way I want our family to approach creating. We’ve got a long way to go, of course, but this book is an endless supply of inspiration. I’m sure I’ll reference it many times here at Simple Kids.
In Chapter Seven, “Exploring Through Nature”, Amanda describes the sweet wonder of creating fairy houses with your children. I was captivated by this magical and imaginative idea, and so Dacey and I began working on creating fairy houses last summer when she was three. I had an idea in my mind of what I wanted the fairy house to look like, but her ideas always took a very different, definitely less constructed path. I found I had to step back and remind myself why it was we were building fairy houses, and it wasn’t so we could be featured in a minature version of Town&Country magazine.
A few weeks ago when the weather turned warm and wildflowers began springing up in our yard, Dacey and I were enjoying some quiet play time in the backyard. I can’t remember who it was that first suggested that we build our first fairy house of the season, but we were soon hard at work collecting our materials – sticks, handfuls of grass, the odd pinecone here and there, and lots and lots of flowers. In no time at all, Dacey was more concerned with her wildflower harvest than with the building of a fairy house, and once again I found I had to make the mindful choice to just step back and follow her playful lead.
Eventually, Dacey decided that what “Taluah” (our resident backyard fairy) would want more than a house would be a little garden. This meant, of course, grabbing a shovel and digging up earth. In my grown-up mind, this was a good start on a flower garden. What I didn’t foresee was Dacey deciding to completely bury the flowers under the mound of dirt she dug up. In her mind, that was planting flowers and that was precisely what she intended to do for Taluah, despite my gentle protests and attempts to persuade her otherwise.
After the flowers were “planted” and we had gone inside and thoughts and talk of Taluah were put away until another day, I thought about how often I want to step in and direct my daughter’s imaginative play. Is it the dormant teacher in me awakening to see the lesson plan is not being followed? Maybe it’s the big sister within who never really recovered from being so bossy in play. Regardless of the reason, the urge to insist on doing things the “right way” in play is something I have to intentionally resist.
It’s just play. It’s just for fun. Playing is learning.
These are mantras I find myself repeating. Hopefully one day, the stepping back and letting go will be my first response. In my heart I know that when it comes to play, the most important rule to be heeded is to just go with it.
Am I alone in my bossy tendencies? Anyone else have to be reminded to let go and go with the flow? Or perhaps you can share some gentle pointers for the rest of us on how to step back and let play unfold in a wonderfully organic way. I would love to hear your thoughts!