This isn’t going to be one of those posts where I tell you to put down your cellphone because “they’re only little once.”
I have three kids, and sometimes the first eight minutes on the playground represent the only chunk of the day that I have to return phone calls, emails and texts without someone screaming, “I WANT MORE WATER!” or “I TALK TO DADDY!” the whole time.
(It’s as though the mere touching of a telephone sends some cosmic signal that a kid-emergency must occur at that very moment.)
No, that’s not what I am going to say. Instead, make your calls, do your emails and then, when you get the inevitable call to attention, “I need help,” “I need to go potty,” or, “He’s throwing mulch down the slide and we’re not supposed to throw mulch down the slide and I want to go down the slide but he’s up there and he said he’ll hit me if I try to go down the slide,” then tuck that phone in your pocket because I have much bigger plans for you.
It’s time we played more, moms and dads. And what better spot to play than on a playground?
I don’t love the conventional definition of play: “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose,” because I think it sets up a false dichotomy between play and, I don’t know, the whole rest of life, where play = enjoyment and everything else = serious and practical.
Rather, and you should find this as no surprise, I see play as an opportunity for exploration. Through play, you can explore your social relationships, how your body moves in space, how your body moves in relation to implements and obstacles, nature, your fortitude, and your own thoughts.
Think the playground is just for the wee littles? They’re geared for kids, to be sure, but when I look at a playspace I see things up high, on which I can hang:
Things down low, on which I can balance:
Things I can climb:
And, unsteady things:
I can pretend I’m an airplane, and fly over my kids.
I can pretend my kids are airplanes, too, and we can fly off together.
I can see how long I can stand on one leg.
I can run races, hop like a bunny, leap, and climb rocks.
Together we can find trees to climb, sticks to gather, and heavy rocks to lift as high as we can.
The playground is full of opportunities for parents to enjoy a variety of movement patterns to challenge muscles, connective tissue, and the cardiovascular system.
Your kids will have no idea you’re “working out.” And most likely, neither will you.