On the way to The Hidden Playground…
My rowdy ruffians, bless them, love playing together. They especially like the outdoors and can spend hours in the garden, climbing the fig tree and checking on the plants and insects. They have a few favourite haunts out of home, one of which is a lovely place they call “The Hidden Playground”. Nestled in a quiet residential area, it seems almost mysterious. This park is very well-maintained – the gardener seems to have taken pains to keep it clean (trust me, no mean feat in this country!) and also to retain its woodsy charm.
Some adults meet there in the evenings to rest and talk after a long day or simply to imbibe the peace and tranquility, but it is otherwise hardly frequented by others, at least not on weekdays. Many might not find it anything special – it is rather old-school as far as playgrounds go. There are two swings, a simple climbing facility and a cement slide so old it is worn smooth. It is a spacious place with a slope to race up and down and two little gazebos for shade. Nothing out of the ordinary, you might say. However, its appeal, I believe, lies in its simplicity. My girls find The Hidden Playground a place of promise – where they can dream up ideas and adventures. This secret hideaway is where they can cavort and frolic to their hearts’ content.
There are bushes and hedges that border the upper slopes of the park and at the far end is the kids’ favourite spot. There is a cavity in the hedge, just small enough for a child to crawl into. At the base of this little hole are two strong branches that have grown horizontally, just above the ground. This is a perfect hiding spot! A child can squeeze into the ‘cave’ and crouch on these branches and remain concealed. They will be covered by the leaves and their feet will be raised off the ground and unseen. They played hide-and-seek with The Dad Man and giggled gleefully when they took him completely by surprise.
My kids do have some toys, but they seem to have the most fun when they make their own or use un-toys (more on this later in shaa Allah) and when they don’t use any props at all, except for their own imagination. I posted three articles from National Public Radio some time ago and these gave me a deeper appreciation for children and improvised play. If you are interested, you can read them here: Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills, The Evolution of Play and The Best Kinds of Play.
It is wonderful watching the kids play sometimes – as they interact with each other, create their own rules and make their own decisions, I see how they are, in fact, practising at their adult roles and I cannot help but wonder what they will become, with the permission and help of Allah.
I love this part of the park – this tree bordered by the rocks looks so very pretty with the wooden bench close by.
It has been a while since I stepped out with them to the park. There has been so much to do lately but in shaa Allah I think I will try to take some time off with them this weekend.
I think we need some Hidden Playground magic… :)