The joy of having several kids who are close in age is that I hardly ever have to "entertain" them during play time. I often direct the play to beneficial or fun activities, or help brainstorm for them when they need something new to try. I often have to step in to establish safety protocol or settle disputes. But once they are given the setting, and any necessary guidelines, their little imaginations get going full tilt and I get to just step back and enjoy the childish antics.
Sometimes, though, I get a little more than I asked for.
"Mom, can we play in the mud while you get ready for Easter weekend?"
"Sure!" ... dirt is a necessary part of childhood in the country, right? Helps build the immune system, and all that.
It's a good thing I had them change into old play clothes.
A little too late I start thinking that maybe I should have thought through all of the resulting consequences before condoning this line of play. About the time that I notice the trail of muddy footprints across the kitchen and the splatters of mud in the bathroom from when somebody ran in to use the facilities. A brief moment of frustration and regret passes over me, and then I notice their shrieks of laughter and wild grins. And then I run inside to get the camera and smile at the mud-streaked walls.
Now, when the fun is over a line has to be drawn somewhere, and their shrieking took on a new tone when I turned on the hose to rinse off a little before re-entering the house.
Thankfully they clean up well. What a difference a day makes.