Let them play

 In faith, family

They had 80 acres to explore – free-range children all happy to the core. Armed with whistles and each other, they ran through the trees like wild, rehabilitated animals just released into their natural habitats.


I think we had 13 kiddos, representing three families, in the group; ranging from 2 to 11 years old … and their collaborative efforts could serve as an example to the most experienced adults and corporations. When a small one felt tired, the big ones offered piggy back rides; when a pair became lost from the group, they’d pray and then find their way; when someone screamed in fear of a harmless tree frog, no one laughed – instead, they offered a comforting pat on the shoulder. If only we could all live so compassionately and collaboratively.


The bulk of one sunny afternoon on the ranch was dedicated to an entrepreneurial idea targeting the spa industry: organic mud massages. “One dollar for a 30 minute mud massage!” the children called out. Sounds like a deal to me!

But I’ll be honest, I cringed at first … seeing them slather mud on bathing  suits and selves. Oh, the dirtiness! Oh, the dreadful cleanup! Mud splattered faces, clumped in hair, and crept in every crack possible. I forced myself to consciously still my slap-happy tongue, allowing them free play on this free-range vacation. That wasn’t easy or natural for me … and I’ll admit that a, “Don’t throw mud on others,” managed to slip out a time or two. But, because the Spirit impressed the importance of this memory-making opportunity, I stayed mum (mostly).

And through it all, I consistently heard the Spirit nudge me with these words:
Get out of the way and let them play.

mud monsters

When I relaxed and embraced the moment – the safety of the situation, the serene scene and the sweetness of the souls surrounding it – I marveled. I became one happy fly on the mud puddle … just watching … admiring the love for Mother Earth, the enthusiasm for ideas, and the bonds between children.

I even took off my tennies and partook of the bargain deal! My feet sunk into the slimy, cool, thick mud … and then little hands began rubbing and exfoliating with beads of gravel … it felt … absolutely luxurious!

play_mud massage

When President Gordon B. Hinckley was asked by a magazine writer about his happy and long-standing marriage to Sister Marjorie Hinckley (they were married for 67 years!), he said, “I’ve tried to recognize my wife’s individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.” (Full article: “At home with the Hinckleys.”)

I love that! – and that insightful advice can benefit ALL types of relationships; including those with children. Sometimes we just need to get out of the way and marvel at what they do.

Of course, mothers need to be actively “in the way” at times. If mothers got completely out of the way every day … oh, I can only imagine the chaos, permanent mess and unfortunate life detours that would be made by children {and society} … But this particular experience taught me the importance of providing my little ones with frequent opportunities to play – without me in the way. I need to let them fly. I need to stand back and marvel at what they can do. Not only will the children benefit from the opportunity, but the mamas will too.

So believe me, I stood back and marveled. I marveled at their muddiness … their buddy-ness … and their good, clean fun.

let them play
So, here’s the question I have:
How do you get out of the way and let them play in today’s wacky world? I feel like we must stay close in so many situations … how do you create safe space and time for freedom?

Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Michelle R

    Love this! I think the wonderful part of parenting is finding things that work for you even if they don’t work for others. I am not great at letting them play on their own in our front yard with neighbors because of the street/stranger issue, but I do encourage them to have free play (non electronic) every day – just playing with each other. I feel unstructured times do help them imagine more and bond in a fun, unique way.

  • Miriam

    Beautiful! I love it! So happy the Gnomes came up, even though you weren’t feeling well. My kids are begging me to schedule our fall trip – we are so lucky to have wonderful friends.

Leave a Comment

Start typing and press Enter to search