I have just spent about 2 hours playing in the garden with my next-door neighbours 3 year old. We spent a significant time blowing bubbles with intermittent sand pit breaks. Yes, we braved the weather and had a BBQ which was lovely (I have eaten way to much and now feel ready to pop) so as I sit here fighting the meat sweats and waiting for the immanent thunderstorm I am reflecting on how much fun was had with a tub of bubbles that cost less than a Euro.
I am sure the day will come where it will get old for her but today was not that day and for that I am thankful, she squealed with delight every time someone blew bubbles for her and instantly demanded more then every so often the lure of the sand pit would become too great and she would go off to build a sand castle. If it is one thing they have right here in Berlin it’s keeping kids entertained and they do it all without a screen or battery in sight. The kids here seem far more engaged and content that I am used to, they spend a lot of time in the local play parks, when I say local there is literally at least one on every street, and seem to want to play with Haba and Brio rather than Playstation or DS. More importantly though is that the parents seem more engaged and spending quality time with you kids is normal routine. Even in the depths of winter when the play park is covered in snow I will still see the German fathers huddled together drinking coffee and chatting while watching their kids go down the slide for the umpteenth time in sub zero temperatures.
There is a real “fun should be free” culture here and the focus is heavily on wholesome toys made of natural materials. I seem to remember being in London with my God Daughter and it being very expensive to keep her entertained and it seemed as though around every corner lurked a balloon seller or face painter waiting for the little darlings to guilt you into putting your hand in your pocket.
I appreciate now how strong the lure of blinking lights must be to children especially when most of us (me included) can barely look up from our phone or laptop but Berlin is certainly teaching me the joys of the simple things.
photos taken new years eve 2012 when friends were visiting