The things that keep children most entertained are often not the expensive flashy toys, but rather simple things found around the house. Very young children can be absolutely delighted playing with pots and pans, or cardboard boxes. As a young child in the 50’s, I certainly did not have the quantity of toys that American middle class children have today. But I was never bored. I always found a way to entertain myself. In my case I was aided by having seven brothers and sisters although the oldest of my brothers were too mature (and too cool) to play some child’s games.
One thing my sister and I did was make mud pies. We were such ragamuffins. I have a photo of this esteemed activity taken through a window from inside of the house. We had a little kitchen set up outside which was a wooden plank mounted on something. The play kitchen was furnished with old bowls and pots and pans. Ingredients in the form of dirt, pebbles, twigs, sand and anything else to add a gourmet touch were plentiful on the farm. Small children always enjoy imitating adults. For us it was measuring, mixing, stirring and baking. We did not have an Easy-Bake oven. Our mixtures of dirt and water were baked in the sun. In one of our mud pie adventures I decided that apples from our orchard would make a special variation to our standard creation. A whole apple cannot be added to our delicious mud pies, so I went into the kitchen and helped myself to a sharp knife. I used it to slice the apples for our mud pies. Unfortunately, the apples were not the only thing I sliced. I still carry a scar on the middle finger of my left hand from where I nearly cut off the tip of my finger.
I am sure in today’s world some people would be absolutely aghast at us playing with mud. Concerns would center around the unsanitary nature of dirt and also allowing a child to get that messy and dirty. With my own daughter I would have been horrified if she played with a sharp knife, as my mom was once she realized I had it. Obviously we must keep our children safe. But children need to be allowed to become familiar with their environment, to explore, to experiment, to do dramatic role-playing. At times they should be allowed to get dirty. It’s all part of developing creative personality and exercising creativity.
It is a wonderful to have a beautiful, well-appointed home that is clean and looking like a photographer for House Beautiful could walk in and start a photo shoot at any time. However, if that same home has children in it, the real beauty would come from the children being allowed to be active and to be free. So what if there are some dirty handprints and toys scattered about? So what if guests arrive when the child is in the midst of a sloppy finger painting session? The beauty of a house with children is the children being able to develop in a wholesome, supportive environment. They should be taught to clean up their messes and pick up their toys. That should be part of their upbringing. The bad thing would be if they are not allowed to make messes at all.
Childhood play, just another thread of my life.