in the garden

These last few days, the garden has been transformed into the kids’ playground.

It’s where the kids go to play, every day, and sometimes for hours—glorious hours!—on end.

First they built a stream. Then they added ponds, bridges, tunnels, and dams. They built a red beet island and an asparagus woods. They planted flowers. They made leaf houses and floated Lego men.

Some of my favorite happy-play memories involve large tree roots and matchbox cars, icy-cold swamps, wet sand and pincher bugs. There’s something primal about playing with the elements. It’s satisfying and peaceful, and—pun intended, forgive me—grounding.

When they are in the garden, the children are
focused. Their imaginations are fully alive and engaged. They are using
only the most basic of play things: dirt, rocks, water, sticks. The
game doesn’t end—it only expands. And (this is very important) they are out of my hair.

For my
children, an activity that is cooperative, sustained, and calm is very rare indeed. I’m milking it for all it’s worth, believe you me.

My husband, on the other hand, is a bit stressed by their game. He worries that when he tills up the garden he’ll hit bits of PVC pipe and bricks and tear up the tiller tines. He frets that tools will get misplaced or broken. He fusses about the ground getting packed down hard as rock. He has a point.

But so do I. “Honey,” I say, “The kids are happy. They are playing. This is the best part of childhood right here, right now. You can’t say no.”

And so he doesn’t, of course. I’m good at making points.

Every time I go out to the garden, I take my camera with me. There is always something new.

Yesterday afternoon when I went out, I noticed that the ground over the tunnels had been turned into rock-lined causeways. This gave me an idea.

“You guys should build Tikal,” I said. “Make the towers and the plaza.”

We’ve been reading about the Maya ruins in preparation for our trip. (I have so much to tell you, squeal!) We’ll be about five hours from Tikal, and we’ve already told the kids that we’ll go visit.

A few hours later when I went out to check on them, there was Tikal in all its glory. My older daughter was in the final stages of adding the prayer room to the very top of her tower.

In case you were wondering, I don’t let the children run the water the whole time, but I am more generous than normal. What with the buckets of rain coming next week, I’m not too concerned about the well running dry any time soon.

This same time, years previous: sweet potato pie, the morning kitchen, signs, news, and daydreams


  • Becky

    I LOVE this! What a perfect way for 4 kids to spend the week. Nature has endless play possibilities. The mess can make me cringe sometimes but when I balance that against them being happily busy for hours… letting them get dirty usually wins out. 🙂

  • Jules

    I want to come play too! Maybe that's why adults like to 'garden' so much … it's an excuse to play in the dirt again.
    I'm in awe that your kids are still able to play in shorts, in sunshine. Oregon has turned cold and wet already.

  • Margo

    ooooh, this still gets me excited, to see the little bridges and rock-lined paths. I just LOVE this kind of thing. I got G the book Fairie Houses. . . Everywhere which is nothing but pictures of little houses built out of the materials at hand.

    When I was a kid, we did this in town in the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. Got our picture in the paper which I still have somewhere.

  • Nicole

    Love this – it reminds of my bunch, though my older ones consider themselves to old for this sort of thing now. Your husband sounds like mine; he grumbles quite a bit when he runs over stuff, but he puts up with it.

  • Zoë

    Can't wait til my kids are old enough to clean themselves up. Then they can mud all they want. Brad will be like J though. He doesn't worry about tools so much as he does the mess. I'm always telling him the exact thing you said. "But they are happily playing! This mess entertained them for X amount of minutes/hours!"

    • shelahn

      Well Ladies, tell your husbands that you will clean up the mess. Case closed. Haha!

      truthfully, I have often put an end to this kind of play because I am the one that does the clean-up.

      tough decisions

      But GREAT play.

      Betsy just walked up and said, "what are they doing?" I said "Playing in the garden, does it look like fun?" She said "Yeah! but you would never let us do that, it makes too big a mess!"


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