Sandwiches and Play

I love to play, I love to be active, but it’s a challenge to carve out quality game time with my kids, friends, and neighbors.

For the kids, we have the concept of play dates. The phrase alone makes my toes crawl. I just can’t get my act together to organize them. It’s too much: the diplomatic mine field of how much chaos needs to be swept under the rug before her royal rascal highness can come over isn’t worth the effort. There is also feeding time and the butternut squash allergy checking time ad absurdum. Too much work for play.

Besides, play dates are just for the kids. I want to run around, skip, and play too.

The solution I came up with is successfully running now in its second year in the San Mateo Highlands: Sandwich and Play is a low-stress get together at the nearest neighborhood park or school yard.

There are three simple (bendable) rules:

  1. Weather permitting, we meet at the closest park or school yard.
     
  2. Bring some sandwiches so that you and your rascals are fed. (Sharing optional, but encouraged.)
     
  3. Enjoy your time and play.

There is a small initial effort required, but once you establish Sandwich and Play, it takes almost no effort. All you need is a mailing list. Most neighborhood or parents’ groups have one already, or you can create your own. Send out an invitation explaining the concept and talk to every neighbor you meet about it. You may want to start a monthly gathering, try a Sandwich and Play every first Monday of the month.

In my old stomping grounds, the San Mateo Highlands, they are experimenting with weekly gatherings right now. Big advantage, there’s less to think about. If it’s Wednesday, it’s Sandwich and Play day. They actually call it Picnic and Play. After a couple of weeks it can develop into a lovely routine: Grab food, kids, some games, and off you run to the park.

There’s almost no prep or major cleanup needed. Folks come together, hang out, and play in the fresh air. Paradise.

I’ve found that a pattern develops. The kids tend to go off and play in small groups while the grown-ups hang at the tables and just talk. Nothing wrong with checking in, catching up, and talking. That alone is an evening well spent.

The icing on the cake for me is when the young and old find a way to play together using all the capabilities of the space as well as everyone present. We have forgotten or never had the chance to learn / develop these kind of games where young and old play together. We are missing out by not getting down and dirty with our kids once a week.   Carving out a space is important; the joy in the kids' faces after everyone was running skipping and playing alone is worth it.

My suggestion is after half an hour or so, once folks are fed and had time to connect, call everyone for a pow-wow to decide what you all can play together. We once brought little red wagons, skateboards, and scooters and did soap-box races down a little paved hill. Total fun for all ages.

I stumbled upon the Playworks site, which has a wealth of game ideasThis post was inspired in part by these resources: Playborhood, Free Range Kids.

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