Our kids love to dig! Anyone relate? We used to have a sandbox, where they could unleash their shovel-skills, but we had to remove that space when it became the neighborhood cats’ community litter box. Argh. “No, son, that is not a left-over tootsie roll.” After shutting that operation down (much to the cats’ dismay, I’m sure), our backyard slowly morphed into a series of “I didn’t mean to make the hole that big” potholes, leaving our yard looking like a grassy slice of swiss cheese and us (the parents) quite unhappy. We needed to find a solution, but how could we encourage their daily exploration while also salvaging our lawn and whatever landscape remained? Option #1: Plant a garden. I don’t know what it is, but shoveling piles of compost is an euphoric experience for children who love to dig. (This is not necessarily true for the adults, often left with aching and blisters. Our euphoria comes more with the harvest.) Thus far, we’ve only planted spring gardens, so this only solves digging/planting for a few weeks of the year, not helping our yard for the long-term. Experience #2: Give them digging grounds. Roughly a year ago, Mark and I decided to donate a small plot of our back yard to our kids’digging. This area is close to their playground and doesn’t have any sprinkler lines. Perfect. The rules: 1. Starting a fire is still NOT allowed. and 2. Make sure all the “tools” (usually dad’s) are put away at the end of the day. 3. Share and enjoy!
Since then, we’ve dubbed the space, “the trench” because that’s what it looked like after days and weeks of digging. At one point it was almost as deep as they are high, and wide enough for 5-6 kids to climb in there. (I lost many of the pictures last summer along with my phone.) Many of their friends have experienced the trench, enjoying the thrill of digging, while we’re left commenting, “if only we could channel this energy and enthusiasm into other areas of their lives.” The kids have reenacted the World Wars, built forts, “tents,” and barricades using the other materials in our yard. We recently had to fill in the trench when we put our house on the market; not everyone esteems child-directed building experiments, I suppose. (I can’t imagine why.) So this year during Spring Break, we’re finding other digging spots in parks and natural science museums. Below I linked to some of family’s favorite books about digging to hopefully inspire your little diggers. Click the picture to link to Amazon, but you should find all of them at your library!