Posts tagged Playground

Those Fabulous Fours

Panthera tigris sumatran subspecies.

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve decided that the only thing more fun than having a four-year-old is having two four-year-olds. No, we’re not adopting. I’ve started looking after my friend’s four-year-old twice a week, which is proving to be more of a nice break for me than extra work.

This morning Sammy’s friend arrived in tears, not wanting to say good-bye to his mommy. How do you deal with a child overcome by this type of temporary grief? You tell the boys that you were planning a trip to the park, of course, even if your original plan was to get caught up on laundry and dishes.

The playgrounds near our house are situated on some lovely green spaces complete with a creek, trees, and rolling lawns. It is quite possibly some of the loveliest real estate in the city, and our neighbourhood association works hard to keep it that way. When we moved to our little dated bungalow five years ago with only a 2-year-old, we knew that one day these green spaces would provide hours of little-kid fun for our growing family. Five years later the kids’ wild imaginations are ready for input (and output), and a stroll to the playground is never just a stroll to the playground – especially not if you’re four years old.

Today the two four-year-olds veered off the path and headed down the grassy hill toward the creek bed where they were deep in conversation about tigers when I caught up with them. Each standing about 3½ feet tall, the boys were intently looking into each other’s wide eyes talking about tigers and their young, and that they would come to drink at a watering hole just like this one. There’s nothing like a like-minded person to fan the flame of one’s own imagination, and it was evident the boys were getting a bit nervous about he prospect of tigers being in the area. Trying to diffuse the situation with some common sense wisdom, Sammy’s friend put his little hand on Sammy’s shoulder and said reassuringly, “you know, tigers eat meat. We’re persons.”

After a short pause Sammy replied, “but persons are meat.”

With that it was time to leave the watering hole and check out an overgrown grove of trees nearby – a tiger’s lair, no doubt. After a bit of exploration one of the boys got nervous and wanted to be on his way again. The prospect of coming head-to-head with a full-sized Bengal was just too much for him.

At the playground they discovered a large hole in the mulch in front of the playground equipment. “A dog digged this,” Sammy proclaimed. Later on our way home the boys discovered another large hole in the grass. Holes like this one call for closer inspection, of course. I asked them what they thought made this hole. “A gopher,” replied Sammy’s friend, as though it was the most logical thing in the world.

Sammy found the next hole: a large depression in the grass. “A HOLE!” he cried at the top of his lungs. The sound of the alarm quickly brought back his friend who had gone ahead. What on earth was this? Both boys crouched down and inspected the area. “A pipe,” remarked Sam’s friend, who saw the protruding end of a drainage pipe. Fascinating. What was even more fascinating was that the pipe ran under the path and came out again on the other side! The boys quickly figured it out that they could each peek through one end and see each other through the pipe!

I spent most of my time just watching this morning. There’s a lot to be learned by watching four-year-olds. I realized that discovery doesn’t happen when I’m in a rush with my kids. Discovery, curiousity and imagination take time to unfold. It’s also a good idea to just let kids do their own thing once in a while, instead of planning all their activities for them. Kids are perfectly able to play without mom’s interference.

I also felt just a tinge of sadness knowing that this innocent exploration and imagining will end one day, and will most likely be replaced by the less colourful world of video and computer games, texting, and the mall. And suddenly I understand the frequent comments and mournful smiles of people who “miss this stage.” As tempting as it sometimes is to wish for older, more reasonable and independent children, I’ve renewed my resolve again to cherish the precious pre-school years while they’re here.

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