Grooming Kind and Creative MacGyvers : Homemade Fun

Grooming Kind and Creative MacGyvers : Homemade Fun

Worm houses, digging for creatures, getting dirty, touching stuff that might make us itch, climbing to that point in which we feel a quiver in our gut (and surely set one in mama’s). All are part of the recipe of my favorite memories from childhood.

Kids wrestled a little (ok, a lot) and explored freely until dinner was ready. Somehow we just knew dinner was ready.

Scrapes from branches and falls taught us we could pull through; we could fix some of our own problems by simply assessing the damage and brushing it off, likely with a dirty hand. Scars were a given. We still sport those scars. They carry stories. They give us street cred.

I rode the town on my banana-seat bike, barefoot, in a swimsuit, while eating candy.

Sometimes things weren’t immediately fair but we got over it, without hovering parents, knowing it would work out in the end. Nobody immediately made it better for us.

Our favorite toyswere seldom made of plastic. We played with sticks and mud. Dolly carts with laundry baskets bungeed to them became rockets, rockets that we raced down the driveway at high speeds (see scar reference, now). Imagination drove our days.

Million-dollar question…are we too concerned and ‘involved’or were our parents out of their minds?

We tend to dress our children in bubble wrap with a helmet and organize their days with highly structured activities. Schedules, programs, commercially boxed fun, and safe and polished play, are the norm. In fact it’s so prevalent that I often feel like an oddball thinking it just may be too much. My babes’ safety is of my utmost concern, but really living is darn important too.

I want my babes to learn to work things out. I want them to be inclined to discover their own survival tools and problem-solve. I want them to be able to make their own fun. I want them to see the beauty in their surroundings and be open to getting dirty, and maybe even risk minor injury (I stress minor) for the benefit and reward of a character building experience. Basically, I want kind and creative MacGyvers.

Finding balance between the two rearing styles – living somewhere in between the threat of unsupervised tetanus and fear of the big bad world, pre-packaging our babes against any sort of life (aka, experience), is the key. That balance will be different for everyone.

Nowadays, my backyard does not empty into a ravine in the woods, and my kids do not have the run of the town. They have a wealth of opportunities within minutes of our home, some options that I did not have, but I can’t help but feel they are missing a little something; a bigger slice of the simple childhood I knew. So I supplement in those areas. A lot.

In addition to visiting Nanni’s farm and taking frequent nature hikes, we hit up the nature right outside of our home.

We have a tree out back. It’s some scrubby hybrid Lilac tree deal. It’s likely been hit by lightning, twice, causing the front half to crack off. I have resisted my instinct to cut it down and ‘clean up’ the yard for years and it turns our there is a reason. My babes have grown to love this tree. It’s a fort, a hideaway, and a jungle gym. And this year it bloomed larger than ever. It is loved.

This is one way that we play, which feels a lot like my childhood…and satisfies many of those desires, feeding the senses.

I’ll call this project: Worm Homes – Homemade fun


  • Nature
  • Hands or Garden Shovel
  • Sticks / Bark / Leaves
  • Worms
  • Resignation of the need for cleanliness or fear of wiggly things

When we hike to the summit of Log Stairs Mountain at the nearby nature park we build a little home. Little Man stashes some assortment of figures in his pockets: Lego guys, Monsuno Monsters, plastic sea creatures. We play for a bit, and then leave the homes in tact when we move on. I love the idea of someone stumbling upon them when we’re long gone.

We also build these little homes for the wiggly creatures that live in the dirt under the shelter of our tree out back.

It’s all imagination from the start, no steps. Collect sticks, bark, leaves, and rocks, and just build. Today we added a moat feature with a bridge, large Hosta leaves for our roofs, and discovered that leaves laced on sticks make excellent flags.

The babes like to dig up worms to set them in the home. Even though they head south within minutes of placing them there, we’re sure they appreciate the gesture.

Dig it.

Quick shot of the worms before they headed south…

Consider these dwellings to be the less feminine counterpart to the Fairy Garden. With an obsession with all things tiny and an interest in gardening, we couldn’t resist making one of our own. Remaining  hidden, listening to Little Lady chat away and improv dreamy songs while sitting on the ground right next to this garden is a real melter.

“Play turns out to be so stunningly essential to childhood, it’s like love, sunshine, and broccoli, all juiced together.”   ~Lenore Skenazy


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  1. Great post! It’s so true that our children’s world is so different from ours as kids. I like the idea of melding the two worlds to form a better ideal one.

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