Here’s a recent example:
This past Saturday, I was out surveying the damage the recent cold wave reaped upon our bamboo. After cutting back the worst-hit canes, an idea was born. Make a hut. I constructed a simple frame from the bamboo, placed it in our front yard, and let the kids ‘run with it.’ Quite simply, I cut the bamboo (canes roughly 1”-3” in diameter) into four foot lengths, used some dollar store cut-length twist ties, and just like that, a frame was born.
My tying activity was observed from our dining room table as the kids ate lunch, and of course, the curiosity factor was ‘killing them.’ This was unlike my usual yard work, and they could tell. Evidently, a wonderful dialog, with a question-and-answer session for Mommy, ensued inside – premise: ‘what is Daddy making?’
When lunch was over, I could hear the cries of ‘What is that?,’ from a distance and with our front door barely shut. I heard some running, and then, two young faces stood at the edge of the driveway, and asked that very question…my response: ‘I’m making your hut. You two can now work together to put on the sides, you can use the pavers, if you like, for the ‘floor,’ and go from there.’ The comedic value of them running all over the yard, thinking, looking for cladding material was hilarious, so I simply said, ‘maybe you can start with Palm Fronds…’ ‘Ooh, good idea, Dad…’ And off they went again, collecting, piling, and readying the materials for the ‘fort.’ I built a rough pyramid frame, so stacking, vertically, was easy to achieve with Sabal palm fronds. The recent winds knocked most of the brown fronds from their perches above to the ground, within easy reach for them. From dead or dying plant material (enter sustainability (exception to the twist ties) and low cost!), to a play house! They spent the rest of the day, incorporating pine cones, rubber play mats, for an ‘entry walk’ and ‘patio,’ and finished on Sunday, by incorporating some gravel and ‘jewels’ which were left over from a bygone fish tank…Good times were had by all, as my wife and our two-year old, set up chairs on the driveway, and either watched or joined the initial ‘Design Team.’ It was great to see sibling rivalry turn into an impromptu Design competition, where no one person, truly triumphed. Even better they coordinated their efforts and worked together.
Indoors: enter the Lego, one of the most, single brilliant inventions of the decade. The pre-boxed designs are built, typically ‘destroyed,’ after they are enjoyed, and are amassed in two drawers dedicated to Legos. ALL of us create our own Design, from ships, to jets, to houses…these are, in turn, taken apart, to build something new, in another exciting ‘Lego session.’ If they need a ‘Design Seed,’ similar to the hut frame, I generally ask about the idea they have, and begin by assembling about a half dozen pieces, just to them going on their Project…of course, within an hour, the various designs are paraded out, for our enjoyment, and rationale begin their, individual creation.
Indoors and Out.
Boxes. We recently have a ‘dishwasher disaster,’ and so the oversized box, saved. This, in my mind, represents the ‘classic fort,’ premade and ready for ‘installation’ of windows, doors, and escape hatches, with the aid of a utility knife.
Plastic containers. Marketing, these days involve the ‘containerization’ of almost everything we buy; thus, ice cream, lunchmeat, and margarine containers, and are cleaned and see reuse as sand buckets, jewel boxes, and collection buckets (leaves, pine needles and cones, flowers, insects, lizards, and other natural wonders are temporarily ‘collected’ during outside adventures…)
Bedding. Our old bed sheets become everything from frost covers to picnic ‘flooring’ to another simple design idiom, the roof – with rope or duct tape, the sheet is spanned from tree to tree, with enough length on one side to become a ‘wall.’ Again, from there, the children ‘design’ their idea use of the new space.
If you have more examples, I would love to see them in the ‘Comments’ area below – parents are always open to innovative suggestions, so please share your thoughts! So that was our weekend, and I hope yours was filled with the joy that only young minds and youthful energy can inject. Laughter, Exercise, and Escape. It represented a getaway, of sorts, for my family, from the monotony of the economy, and perhaps more importantly, from the monotony of our yard!