Family Resources’ Children’s Festival was on Saturday morning and it was delightful! The sun was hidden and the temperature cool, but the warmth and wonder generated by happy, spirited children, playing to their heart’s content, was palpable.
A mom and dad watched their two-year-old pile “pretend boulders” (duct-taped balls of newspaper) into a wheel barrow, haul it over and load them into a waiting wagon. He then pulled the wagon to a new site, unloaded it and began the process once again. There was no “watch me, Mama” here or requests for help. This little guy had work to do and he was on his own mission to accomplish it. The same was observed at the Car Wash as children dunked their dripping sponges and brushes into the wash basin of water and, with much determination and grit, scrubbed those Little Tyke coops shiny clean! Other children carried and loaded boxes ( empty, only to the minds of adults) into the back of a big UPS truck – while a friend sat in the driver’s seat. Boxes in – piled on the shelves; boxes out – deliveries made. Real work – real play! ( Thank you, UPS)
This type of focused pretend play was repeated over and over throughout the morning, in every area. The excavation site was filled with busy “contractors” operating their dump trucks and loaders full of sand, and doing it the way they’ve observed it being done on the city streets and in their own neighborhoods.
Cardboard boxes? Not any more. They had been transformed into fanciful cars that children climbed in and drove, Flintstone style – some racing each other, others stopping for gas at the I90 Rest Stop or slowing down for the big, yellow, cardboard school bus.
Pete’s Speedway was a hugely popular attraction as children clambered around, intent on choosing from a gigantic selection of match box cars, sending them zooming down long tracks with extended inclines. This was a great spot for interactive play with parents, as witnessed by the equally engaged participation of both adults and kids.
There was also a real tow truck, a racing car, a fire engine, a train ride around the park, a petting zoo – each one fueling exploration and discovery and adding to the bank of background knowledge and experience so necessary for dramatic play to happen. All of which leads to future success and school readiness. Really!
The numerous crafts available did not go unnoticed in spite of all the other activities. What I observed again this year, as I have in the past, is the careful way each child goes about making his or her craft their very own – like no other. We strive to offer crafts that any age can come to at their own level. There are no dictated “this way only” rules and the variety of attractive materials, ready and waiting to be selected, are an inspiration to every child’s creativity and individuality.
And I have to mention the Clothesline Art Show where participants paint, standing at an 8-foot long easel, easily accommodating 5-10 painters at a time. This is a sight that takes your breath away, as two-year-olds to 12-year-olds, stand next to each other in their over-sized men’s shirts as smocks, deep in the delight of creating. For many of these children, it’s the first time they’ve worked with paint, or at an easel and you can almost predict the ones where this definitely won’t be their last. The pictures waving and drying on clothesline hung between trees is quite beautiful!
A great deal of carefully thought-out planning goes into Family Resources’ Children’s Festival each year, but each year we find ourselves re-energized and renewed in our belief about the significance of offerring opportunities for simple, real play and choices in our children’s lives and the impact we can have by modeling this for our families.
Now – what about next year? Hmmm…the wheels begin to turn already!