The first day of school for many local kids ended with a romp around the loop at Halsey Pond, a place that has quickly become a favorite for Kids Unplugged. Today the kids’ feet barely touched the gravel path and they took off as soon as the pond came into site beyond the short, uphill trek to the loop’s entrance. Their destination was immediately apparent–the Beltzhoover Teahouse–and my own children were as guilty as the rest of breaking the cardinal Kids Unplugged “you must be able to see your parents and they must be able to see you” rule.
Those participants with shorter legs made their way much more slowly along the path, stopping to admire the ducks, play in the fountain, throw rocks into the water, collect the early-changing fall maple leaves and pick up sticks. When those of us with little ones in tow finally arrived at the Teahouse, the older children were deeply immersed in a world of fantasty and imagination. There were gate keepers and royal highnesses and swordsmen busily playing their parts in the land they had created in and around the castle-like structure which is the last remaining building of the old Beltzhoover Estate. Parents chatted nearby while the children romped and explored and played, eventually moving them back onto the path where a little concrete jetty into the pond captured the attention of the smaller ones intent on throwing more stones and poking sticks of varying lengths into the water. This hiatus allowed the older children to embark on part two of their play, bushwhacking their way into the brush surrounding the base of the Teahouse, finding hiding places, telling stories and looking like a bunch of children from Lord of the Flies.
It was just what it should be. The parents on the periphery while the kids created their own play, their own worlds. Hopefully some of this can translate into play in our own backyards, in the little pockets of wild space we have around our homes where the kids can imagine and hide and disappear from their structured worlds for a while. Hopefully this can happen more often along the trail. Our comfort levels may be the littlest bit pushed sometimes, our eyes out for potential dangers–poison ivy, ticks, kids too close to the water’s edge–but the if we breathe deeply and allow them this space, very cool things can start to happen. They happened today. Very cool.