As a child I always loved school vacation. It was a time for playing ball, climbing trees and just hanging out with friends. Sure there were a few family vacations, trips to my grandmothers house and chores like mowing the lawn and washing cars, but, for the most part, summers were a time for relaxation as well as play.
As a young parent I can recall watching my son, alone, at play in our backyard. I remember this moment because it was so innocent. It also brought back backyard memories of me playing Davy Crockett or pretending to be Roberto Clemente making great catches (lunging into our hedges to snare balls I had tossed into the air). It was a lazy, hot, summer day and his friends were off on vacations or other such stuff. At the time Alex might have been 6 or 7 years old. He didn’t realize that I was watching from time to time out a window – just keeping an eye on things.
Kids at play are amazing. They have great imaginations and suffer few of the ‘can’t do this and can’t do that’ attitudes many acquire with adulthood. On this day my son turned a backyard into something only a child could. It became a place of endless possibilities. He found a stick and it became a javelin, then a pole vault and eventually a lever to help lift up a rock. Moving on he watched the bugs beneath the upturned stone, threw rocks at a tree and finally headed towards a wooded area to do some exploring. All the time I could see him searching for options and testing things he could play with. His powers of observation were amazing. His imagination even more so. Alex ended his session by going into a hidden area where he and his friends often gathered – a hideout in the woods. Today was an alone day. Other days would include friends. They too would offer endless opportunities for discovery. All of this in an hour or two. How’s that for Phys. Ed, Science, Physics and perhaps some Social Studies?
I have always thought that my son was a pretty bright child. With this being stated I also realize that most kids have the capacity to create like he did more than 15 years ago. Sometimes we forget the importance of play for children. In addition, we also get caught up in teaching them measurable things and forget to teach them that learning can be fun (and that fun can lead to learning).
I wrote a poem a few years back for children and adults. I wrote it on a rainy day which brought back memories of times past.
A young boy on a rainy day
sloshed in puddles long the street-
eating his favorite popsicle
and splashing with his feet.
The steady rain kept pouring
creating a river ‘long’ the way-
he finished the tasty delicacy
leaving a stick behind to play.
Never before has such a boat
adorned the oceans blue-
the mighty little popsicle stick
driven by imaginations crew.
Down the raging river,
stopped by twigs and stones,
only to get a gentle nudge
from ‘Captain All Alone’.
Braving the rushing waters
the boy captain and his friend
lived a high adventure
to the street’s very end.
I often think of that gentle boy
walking in the rain.
Did he grow into a man
and carry ages pain?
I wonder if he’d ever try
when the sky turns gray
to grab his tasty popsicle
and go outside to play.
The compartmentalization of education, along with an over reliance on testing, often gets in the way of curiosity and inquiry. We spend so much time asking kids for answers that they’ve forgotten the fun of asking questions. The 10-week interlude known as summer vacation can offer opportunity for a different pace and style of discovery. Imagination’s realm knows no boundaries. Sometimes the questions and answers can be found in your own backyard on a mid-July day.
I hope that kids get a lot of playtime this summer. Whether alone or with friends there is a great deal to learn by having some fun. Enjoy your summer.