Time to Play: Everything Old is New Again

Six years ago my husband and I moved into what we are pretty sure will be the house our kids will spend the rest of their growing up years. It’s on a quiet kid-friendly street, and has plenty of space for dude-induced shenanigans including a boy proof basement and an attic space I designed specifically to be their “playroom”.

This lovely top-of-the-house space has ample built in shelves that occupy all those bins of LEGOs and KNEX, and army guys, and other miniature playthings, as well as a giant toy box of costumes, a small table and couch for board games and a messy “arts and crafts” space.

It’s the coziest perch during our long Chicago winters and the windows look out right into the tops of our bird-filled trees outside. I love it up there.

My boys were 4 and 8 when I created their funtastic playroom and it was perfect and inviting.

But then they went and grew up. My two little boys are now 10 and nearly 15 and haven’t tromped up those attic stairs in nearly a year. And it’s my entire fault.

The truth is that with every step it takes to get up to the attic playroom, I am hit in the gut with the fact that the days of dress-up and face paint, and Buzz and Woody are over with a capital “O”. And that makes me sad. And a little pathetic. So I avoid going up there at all costs. But that’s even more sad and pathetic.

So, this fall as my guys went off to 5th and 9th grades, I decided it was time to re-claim that “playroom” and transform it into something playful, yet age appropriate for my impending boys-to-men.

My sons, and most tweens and teens still love to play. They may not admit it, but they do.

Their playtime might not look like it did when they were wee, but their playful spirits do still long for a place to creatively roam. Or just chill out.

As children get older and are engrossed in more challenging school assignments and competitive sports and activities, the time for unabashed free play gets quickly and quietly kicked to the curb.

Unfortunately it’s during these highly stressful, angst ridden middle and high school years that our kids need moments of uninterrupted, self driven, creative, fun, un-judged and un-graded PLAY more then ever.

I had allowed my kids’ playroom to become the land that time forgot, instead of adapting it to meet their new creative needs, because I wasn’t ready to move on. Seriously, Toy Story 3 nearly put me on Prozac.

My boys and I are now weeding (slowly), through the old toys deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what to pitch, with many a “oh I forgot how much I LOVED this toy” sprinkled on top. Together we’re determining how to re-design, re-stock, and revitalize their old playroom for a new era. The playroom may now be called the “Hangout”, but it will still be a place of freedom, creativity, and silliness. And through this whole heart-tugging transformation, I’ve been sweetly reminded of that lovely George Bernard Shaw quote
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”.

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