Sunflower blogger Victoria won 4th place in KaBOOM!’s recent guest blogging contest. For those of you who missed it, check it out below and on KaBOOM!’s Play Today blog. Then read more great Sunflower posts by Victoria here.

Also–read Jaime’s winning entry in the KaBOOM! contest here!

You know that stereotypical childhood spent outdoors that parents these days wish their children could have? The one with kids roaming free through the neighborhood, digging in the dirt, climbing trees and playing outside until after dark in the summer? Yep, I had that, growing up in Rhode Island in the 70s and 80s.

Now I have two boys, ages 5 and 2, and we live in a townhouse in south Florida. Many of the things I experienced as a child aren’t available here: big backyards, friendly neighborhood moms who invite you in for a drink of water, the ability to walk home from school. My friends and I spent some time bemoaning those differences, until I realized: my kids don’t know what they’re missing.

We do have a yard. Ok, yes, it’s tiny. But so what? My kids are tiny. The yard has grass and bushes and rocks and bugs and lizards and sea shells. Nature! And we have a long driveway which we share with our neighbors that also has some bushes and trees. Perfect for riding trikes and bikes, drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles and squirting one another with the hose. Our neighborhood abuts the Intracoastal Waterway. Just a short walk down the road and we can play on a sandy beach, see pelicans flying overhead and watch fish jumping. We can check to see if the tide is high or low, and whether any treasures have washed up on our shore.

One day last week, after a rain shower, my kids and I went out into our driveway to play. The boys immediately started splashing in a puddle. My older son got a bucket and made some mud, which he smeared onto a tree. After a while, he pulled some leaves off a bush and plastered those into the mud: a messy, oozy poultice.

While we were out, our neighbor directly across the driveway came home with her two girls, ages 5 and 7. They looked longingly at my muddy, wet boys and asked if they could play outside, too. Their mom looked aghast and hustled them inside immediately.

Sometimes, the opportunity for play is there, but you just have to look a bit harder to find it.

© Victoria Green and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012