The post was originally published a couple of years ago. I thought it would be some timely encouragement as many of us in the Pacific Northwest are heading full steam into summer.
Guest Post by Kari Patterson
“What would you like to do?”
It was Family Day. Every Saturday we set aside our chores and pressing needs and commit a full day to rest, refreshment, recreation, renewal, and fun. This day was sunny, and I was eager to make plans for some serious family fun. I leaned forward in my lawn chair, looked at my three-year-old daughter, and asked her again.
“What would you like to do?”
“BUTTERFLY!!” She squealed, oblivious to my question. She ran as fast as she could toward the red fluttering she’d spotted and began chasing it, laughing. My five-year-old joined her in the chase, and when they lost sight of the butterfly they discovered an ant hill. Even better. Soon they were crouched down with sticks, poking at the crawling mound, lost in wonder.
“Mommy! Look! Look! Now! Come look!” I put down my iced tea and my desire to determine the day’s plans, and joined them in their wonder-filled rapture. I thought of OMSI, the zoo, the park, the fair, the Family Fun Center, the Inflatable Kingdom and other wonderful children’s activities available to us that day.
They chose the ant hill.
Each Saturday as we eat breakfast, we each take turns saying what one thing we’d like to do that day. We write down each person’s “wish” and coordinate our day so everyone gets to do what refreshes and renews them. My wish is usually to tackle a project (cleaning the carport is fun for me!), my husband’s wish is usually to be excused from tackling said project, and without fail our children’s response is:
To which we always respond, “Play what?”
Then we get varied responses: Play cowboys, play Dora, play outside, play in the garden, play in the makeshift teepee we made from broken branches, play dress-up, play Legos, play ponies, play pirates, play music.
There are dozens of different things they want to do but they all involve two critical components: Play + Parents.
They want us to play, too. That’s what’s refreshing to them, what fills their love tank and makes them feel happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a butterfly, an ant hill, a silly dance party or a Lego castle, they just want us to play with them and experience the wonder of the world through their eyes.
That’s really all they want. And it’s absolutely free.
I can’t speak for your family and your kids, but time and time again I am surprised and challenged by the fact that most of the “activities” and “adventures” I want to take my children on are more so that I can get out of the house and so I can have some stimulation. Please don’t misunderstand: I am not bashing the zoo. Field trips are fabulous for teaching and exposing children to new things. We do them too. But it’s interesting to me that nine times out of ten what my children really want is just to play with me.
They want me to get down low on the floor and look at the LEGO spaceship from their vantage point. To dance the silly dance like them and feel what it’s like to wiggle your body to the music. They want me to beat the drums in time with them, to enter into their play. To taste the popsicle, touch the worm, feel the shock of icy sprinkler water. They want me to wear the pirate scarf, wield the “lightsaber” (gift-wrap roll), and crawl down into the fort.
Nine times out of ten, the things my kids want to do are absolutely free. And it is me, the parent, who needs to learn from their simplicity, their wonder for the world. Isn’t contentment the secret to true frugality? When we’re just so excited about the simplest things in life, we find ourselves needing less and less outside stimulation. Less commotion. Less stuff.
So this year I’m learning to enjoy these summer months like a child. A dose of wide-eyed wonder and a few runs through the sprinkler are just what we need to savor the simplicity of summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Enjoy!
Leave a comment! What have your children taught you about enjoying these summer months? What are some of your favorite frugal family summer activities? Thanks for sharing!
Kari Patterson is pastor’s wifey, preschool mommy, writer, speaker, reader, blogger and frugal living enthusiast. She writes all about the beautiful mess of life over at KariPatterson.com.
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Thank you Kari, it is a very sweet and truthful post…My girls are 16 and 14 but they always speak about the day we started a “peanuts snow storm” in the kitchen after receiving a lot of packages stuffed with foam “peanuts”… They do not remember the gifts inside of those packages, but they remember laughing so hard, from trying to avoid being buried under the “snow”…
Thanks for this reminder Kari. As a family that struggles financially to make ends meet I often find myself dwelling on and mentally bashing myself because we aren’t creating enough memories that include “outside stimulation”. Ironically, your posts come as my kiddos are enjoying a week of EXTREME fun with Grandma & Grandpa. Perhaps when they get back, our once or twice a week walks/bike rides that they beg for in the evening will become nightly. ALWAYS love your posts. God Bless.
Jessica A says
Thank you for sharing. I can relate to this story. When I asked my girls (5 & 2) what they want to do this summer, their replied “picnic in our backyard, play outside, read books, & bake.” I asked them if there’s something else they would like to do that we haven’t already done. They both said no. If they’re happy, I’m happy :0)
Miss Jay says
About a year ago, I began to realize just how many times a day I was telling my kids “not now, mommy needs to _____________.” I would often spend time playing with them throughout the day, but that didn’t stop them from asking and asking and asking. And I didn’t want them to remember their childhood with me continually telling them I was too busy for them. So we instituted what we call “four to four thirty time”. Every day, from 4:00 – 4:30 I play with my kids, and if dad is home, he plays too. Sometimes it’s their choice, sometimes it’s ours.
We still often play with them spontaneously, but when we are partularly busy and they ask, we say, let’s save that activity for four to four thirty time, I’ll be glad to play it with you then. It has done amazing things for their attitudes, and our hearts toward them.
I loved this, my daughters only 9 months. But she already loves it when I get on the floor and play blocks with her. Plus most of my favorite times when I was a child, was when they adults were playing with me.