I am very proud to say that over the course of the week, the television NEVER came on. The children, all 11 of them, were never sat down in front of a single show or movie. The children played with each other, learned from one another, and spent a lot of time outside. Arizona's weather was nice enough, sunny but chilly with cold nights. My aunt's yard, where we all gathered daily, was not a grassy lawn. In this progressive little town, called the Village of Oak Creek, people landscape with rocks, desert plants, and red rock gravel or sandstone. The red sandstone gravel was not only a wise choice for such a dry setting, but to the children it looked like the world's largest sandbox!
At first I worried that aunt Carolyn might come running outside telling the children they were ruining her landscaping. Instead she seemed to take joy in it. She smiled and said that she needed to redo it anyways and she laughed saying that her landscaper would have his job cut our for him next week. She is a very understanding woman!
Three of the girls decided to make a "castle" in the sandstone. They piled and lined up rocks taken out of the irrigation ditch and then collected cups of juniper berries for color. They added sprigs from nearby trees and and locust seed pods. Before I knew it, the children had spontaneously taken nature and turned it into art!
As an environmentalist, artist of sorts, and teacher, I enjoy eco-art by children more than anything. I delighted in the creativity among the children and their inspiration to play together, enjoy nature, and stay outside. It is so important to turn off the television (or never turn it on in the first place) and take children outdoors. Let them use their imagination, explore, and destroy the yard turning it into art. And as you watch them play, learn to play a little more too.