Tag Archives: play

Considering Dubai

A cardboard box, some packing tape, and a long green line of yarn. A stub of a carrot and an orange crayon. This is all that is needed, apparently, for a six and seven year old to catch a rabbit. A light hand on a shoulder, leaning in for a whisper, the two look as if they have known each other for a couple of years. Not two days.

Our new neighbors have a smiling toddler with a constant grin and a full head of thick, jet black hair. This family is originally from Pakistan, and I marvel how this robust, stocky young man could belong to the slight young woman. Her brother and his family are visiting from Dubai. For the last two days, G and their six year old son, who enthusiastically sings the lyrics to “Eye of the Tiger,” have quickly become acquainted. They have plotted to trap rabbits darting about the yard at early dusk, created itemized lists of supplies for various projects, caught grasshoppers,engaged in squirt gun battles, and examined fireflies in the dark. Their visit is coming to an end later this week, and we may or may not see them again, but I believe this has been a happy event in G’s summer.

He has enjoyed having a conveniently located playmate. He understands how happy his new friend is to discover a temporary friend right next door to fill in for more permanent ones back in Dubai. G is proud to be a part of this little boy’s first United States experience.

After their first playtime together, G and I searched a map of the Middle East so he could discover Dubai nestled on the coast of the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia.

And, friends, this is how a child might best learn geography, cultures, compassion, openness, and an eagerness for the greater world. Even right next door. The world is probably closer than you think.

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Looking at the map, G said, “Well, I never really thought about going to Dubai before.” He shrugged. “But I guess we could go.”

Willow painting

Our summers tend to be slower paced. We don’t schedule in that many events for our kids, preferring them to experience boredom and togetherness, coming up with their own fun. We usually make an overnight trip to Chicago or Cincinnati, and occasionally play tourist about our own city.  I do not deal well with hectic, frenetic days, but feel much happier with fewer items on my agenda.

This year our three boys are spending a week at a local farm camp in the mornings.  They are feeding pigs and chickens, learning some ecology, weeding the vegetable garden, and getting brown in the Indiana sun. Once home, and after lunch, they are outside again (I love this about them!).

Lately, A is either at the neighborhood basketball courts or on his bike. S often rides his longboard down the steepest hill in our neighborhood. Since G is not old enough, according to our guidelines, to leave the block unaccompanied, he opts for the backyard. Sometimes he plays with a brother, sometimes alone. Today after watching a bit of the EURO 2016, I kick a soccer ball with him all around our yard.

For not even six years old, that kid is really fast. He looks like someone has set an old VHS tape on fast forward. Honestly, I tire of that pretty easily, so I hide under our willow tree in hopes he will be inspired to join me in a calmer, more imaginative venture. He does.

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“Let’s make a fort!” he exclaims. “And I’m going to paint dragons and pictures for the fort’s entryway.”

I slip and refer to it as a studio.  “It’s not an art studio,” G insists, “it’s the painting on the fortress walls.” I stand corrected.

G instructs me to collect the supplies while he lies against the tree, some of the unwieldy branches swishing across his legs. I let him tell me what to do…this time, and bring cardboard, tape, rope and paint on a plastic palette, along with a few brushes. G sits up, and asks me to help him tie the “canvas” to a willow tree branch.

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He gets to work.

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And this occupies him for twenty or thirty minutes.

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Eventually he brings out his pop up tent and a couple of stuffed animals. It’s getting crowded under the willow. I have to crawl in to the tent first; he follows. And, so, one imaginative idea begets another.

It’s a beautiful summer afternoon.

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The burdock and the nettle I preferred,

but best of all the silver willow tree.

Its weeping limbs fanned my unrest with dreams…

~Anna Akhmatova

Playing with Sticks

Every little boy (and girl) loves them.  In our house they are represented in varying sizes, shapes and textures.  Some are long, others are shorter.  Some are thin and rough and are bandied about in twirling, frenetic fashions.  Others, however, are stocky, smooth and are useful for solid, quick jabs and are more realistic for taking with you in the car, on a walk, and, yes, to a family photo shoot.  Sticks.

Here are a few of G's collection.
Here are a few of G’s collection.

Sticks collected from a nearby nature trail – around us they are plentiful and frequently visited.  Sticks nabbed from a neighbor’s or friend’s yard – a souvenir of sorts from a play date.  Sticks from parks and even a stick from a trip to Arizona – a stick lovingly and diagonally padded inside a checked suitcase and brought out of the toy box for special occasions.

Yes, I said toy box.  I know, a little boy playing with sticks may not seem particularly unique.  However, I am not sure how many treasure their outdoor finds quite like G does.  Every stick- well, every stick his mother allows him – he has kept from his ramblings and filled toy boxes.  Balls, plastic toys,and wooden blocks are set aside so that the go-to toy for G on any occasion is the stick du jour.

While playing with G yesterday in his pop-up tent, he began to collect a smattering of sticks from here and there, from a couple of stashes upstairs.  Somehow, he had the right job for each stick.  One was a fishing pole, another was a shovel.  A narrow, curved one was the obvious choice for a nimble bow.  The arrows were swift and imaginary.  G found a sword, a spoon for a stuffed buddy and a flashlight – all made from his imagination and sticks.

I began to make application.  Why are sticks such a big deal to G?  There are a few reasons, I think.

  • It’s personal.  He has found them all by himself and even more importantly, he has carefully chosen them for their intrinsic and special qualities.  Not just any stick comes home, only the ones which are specifically chosen to fulfill a task.
  • Sticks are infinitely malleable to any task at hand.  By malleable, you understand, I do not mean the sticks themselves are soft and pliable, but rather they are conducive for open-ended play.  His mind and imagination are malleable as he plays with a small piece of wood, once as a weapon, then as a flying broom stick.  The next time it is a musical instrument- a flute or an alpenhorn.
  • They are from nature.  They have texture.  They are real.  They are legitimate objects, not a toy or a modified version of something.  They are not fabricated in a factory.  They are from God.

And here, in G’s pop-up tent is where I began to reflect on this simple thought.  God offers us daily something real, not artificial, but authentic, created.  God throws blessings down upon us daily.  Thousands of little things for us to make use of, millions of tiny things for us to glory in.  They are a myriad of promises on which our imagination and gratitude may stretch and grow.  Why do I spend my time preoccupied with the artificially fabricated things?  Sticks.  Blessings scattered about on the ground.  G claims them as his own, takes them home and knows just how to appreciate them.

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Dear Father, thank you for providing G with sticks.  Help me to truly see as I gather together my daily blessings scattered around like the endless sticks upon the ground.