A Summer of Imagination: What I Discovered By Getting Out Of The Heat

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We love The Valley.

The perpetual sunshine, the friendly people, the access to outdoor activities…  

That said, as the years go on, I find that my tolerance for heat is decreasing and the summers are starting to drag. I know that by October, I will yet again wish I had paid more attention in Home Economics class so I could sew lightweight Halloween costumes for my children, instead of having to stuff their sweltering bodies into store-bought, over-padded ladybug outfits made for cool falls.  

SummerofImaginationThis year, to give ourselves a break from the high summer temperatures in Scottsdale, we decided to rent a house in Flagstaff for a month. I was prepared to do the same sort of stuff we do in the fall / spring back home. A big bag ready to haul snacks and water bottles to the park, scooters and helmets loaded in the trunk, even a few child-friendly hiking trails earmarked for their little 3 and 5 year old legs.  

What I wasn’t prepared for was how little I had to actually do to keep them entertained.

Instead of having to get in the car to go to a park, my children asked if they could go sit on the front lawn and collect pine cones. Instead of having to get everything ready for a dip in the pool, they asked for tape so they could attach a home-made target to the trees in the backyard and use the bow-and-arrow set they made out of sticks. Suddenly, all the preparations I felt like I had to make to keep them entertained and smart fell by the wayside.

 

We had simple tools around to let the children be creative, and they came up with activities I couldn’t have imagined for them.

It’s been interesting debating whether this is simply a natural byproduct of summer break. Absent the pressures of school and swim class, would they have been just as creative in our own house?  Or is this a direct consequence of an unkept, nature-filled backyard, with no scorpions or snakes to worry about?  Most importantly, how can I continue to support their freedom and creativity at home?  

Back in Scottsdale, I am still too afraid to let them play unsupervised in the front yard, and I still rely on TV to help me get through tired days (which, c’mon, I did in Flagstaff too). However, I plan to slip into the playroom and remove a number of toys that are strewn about the floor. Clearly the kids don’t *need* so many things to stay amused. I will ask the children to help me select and plant more “wild” flowers and greenery in the yard by the vegetable garden; they evidently enjoy discovering things that grow in nature. We will soon settle into the pattern of life that relies on sunscreen, shade, and splashing in the water, and hope that their imaginations continue to bloom.  

Only time will tell about how long the effect of a summer outdoors will last.  I will continue to brainstorm ways to simplify their lives and  to give them space to create. 

Knowing what I know about the power of nature, though, I am confident we will schedule more time up north to keep up the momentum.

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