We live on acreage that is surrounded by more acreage. There is a stream running through the property for a few months of the year and a trail that leads in a circle from our house through the land and back again. Our property is bordered by a busy road that is blocked on one side by a thick section of trees, another side is dotted by posted sides set up by a distant neighbor, the third laced by the traditional Pennsylvania rock wall and finally a swamp blocks off the fourth side.
My son is 7 and could adventure in the woods for hours. In a society that would probably dissuade any parent from letting their children venture out in the bear ridden woods alone, what was I to do? The children simply did not want me sitting on a stump a few feet away from them while they played. WiFi or no WiFi, I didn't want to sit on the stump either. Not just because at times it could be boring, but more because I wanted them to have freedom to work together and create without mom there to sort everything out.
Since there was that little sense of concern with the what ifs, I needed a point of reference before sending them out: a play area where the kids and their friends could go alone and then be found easily. So was born Cliffhanger, a rock that I found centrally located in the middle of the two crossing paths. In my usual style I pointed it out, came up with a catchy tune about Cliff Hanger and viola the kids were intrigued. Since I couldn't just let them go off unattended, yet they certainly didn't want me camped out watching them we dug out these radios. You may remember them from the days before everyone always carried a cell phone.
Perfect for communication every few minutes to check that the kids were fine. Also in case of a need they could contact me more easily than yelling from the woods. The kids never go back alone, always in a group. This means Cole has to have a friend over to head back, as Cecily is still a little young to be released from more than an ear shot away with just her brother. I also always send the dog, because he knows the trails better than all of us and leads them home directly every time.
The best thing has happened. They have built a fort from materials they have collected.
No fort is complete without a No Trespassing Sign.
I love that the kids have worked together to make something of which they can be proud. I also like to hear the stories about which friend came up with which idea to improve the fort. Some of the best playing happens when children are left to their own ideas and have to learn to work together on a common goal.