If you've ever built your own secret hideaway, then you can certainly remember all the fun it delivered. It was more than just a place where you could snuggle up inside. There were secrets shared and mysteries solved, stories hatched and dreams declared.
I'd like to think my husband and I passed this tradition onto our children—our boys are forever building secret forts indoors and out. Watching them construct the perfect place with the neighbors—whether it's a tree hut, bush house or tipi—fills our heart with joy and brings us right back to a time when our imagination was fueled by fresh air and nature's tools.
We don't allow winter to get in their way. We just bring the fun inside by giving them giant cloths, sheets, wood play clips , random tables and chairs to transform our living room into their own private playground. It's actually a fun way to help them stretch their minds even more.
Sometimes they make a cozy tent, complete with a pretend fire and food. Sometimes they angle for real food so they can fill their little tummies with a super-special treat (food in the living room is a super-special treat!). Sometimes they transform a cardboard box and silken stars into a spaceship that they flllllly to the moon. Always they transform their day into an adventure.
It's easy to see why the Waldorf kindergarten children use simple props—a basket of cotton cloths, rocks, shells, wood planks and a few special silks—to let their imaginations run wild. These simple ingredients stimulate the children by teaching them how to build. They learn how how to negotiate for the materials they need to finish their masterpiece. They learn how to balance materials, like tables and chairs, to avoid an avalanche. They make an upstairs and downstairs. They leave room for babies' play areas, kitchens, caves, castles, tunnels and so much more.
At the end of the day the children carefully roll up the cloths, sort out the shells and neatly place their coveted materials back into the baskets, safely storing tomorrow's dreamy fun someplace safe.
This sort of play creates memories that last an eternity. Just look at my sister and I in the picture. We were so proud of our own private cardboard playhouse. There were so many hours of house, school and store tucked inside-but the most precious memory is the one of just having open space, our open space, and the time to imagine, explore and soar.