Get out and play!Those of us with kids know just what a challenge it can be for our kids to get enough outside playtime even under the best winter conditions, but this year it’s really tough. My encouragement to you is to view this as a challenge to be overcome, rather than an obstacle to beat your head into.
Recently my son asked, “When’s it going to be winter, Mom?”
She replied, “Um, it already is, Buddy.”
“But there’s no snow,” he said.
All she had for that one was, “But there are sticks!”
Those of us with kids know just what a challenge it can be for our kids to get enough outside playtime even under the best winter conditions, but this year it’s really tough. My encouragement to you is to view this as a challenge to be overcome, rather than an obstacle to beat your head into.
I am constantly trying to drive my kids outdoors for exercise, fresh air, and a fresh perspective, but am frequently thwarted in my efforts. I have even sweetened the pot by offering a nickel for every time the kids run up and down the large hill at the nearby golf course. Thus far, the kids have each collected on that exactly once.
This past week I added the promise of adventure and exploration by taking them up a nearby mountain of rock. This involved hand-over-hand climbing (scrambling, really) directly up a fairly impressive rocky face.
At the top of the mountain they took turns blasting an old Boy Scout bugle as loudly as possible, which must have confused the dog walkers below (not to mention the canines) to no end. Then we experimented with a sling shot, and had a hearty snack.
It was a rousing success, an oasis within an otherwise vast sea of disappointments and frustrations in my efforts to encourage the family to be “outdoorsy” in today’s world of entertainment possibilities.
I am not quitting, however, and neither should you. This is something to fight for, and to celebrate whenever such experiences are successful in bringing us closer together as a family, to Creation, and to the Creator.
In the coming days we’re all going to invade the local used book store, where we’ll scour the shelves for books to add to an adventure library. Often the key is in enlivening the imagination with possibilities for child and grownup alike.
Books such as Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” come to mind, but it can’t stop there. A full battalion of books, fiction and nonfiction, will be necessary. We’ll fill a shelf with books that are page-turners that keep the children begging for more, and instill a love for the natural world, adventure, and exploration.
Movies that visually depict men, women, girls and boys encountering nature in its sometimes sweet savagery, while surviving and thriving, should be useful as well. Shucks, “Gilligan’s Island” would even be useful in this regard. It really doesn’t take much to unleash the imagination of children before the trappings of the modern world have spoiled it.
Another tool in the chest is to involve the kids in planning for upcoming wilderness trips in the summer. We’re already planning for our annual trip to the Porcupine Mountains in the Upper Peninsula, where we’ve rented a backcountry cabin at the mouth of a river that empties into Lake Superior. The kids will need to pack in a few belongings on the three -mile hike, so the time to train is now.
I will also be involving them in the procurement of necessary gear and clothing. The gear we have for our kids, in terms of clothing, sleeping bags and what-not, is woefully inadequate. Well, to heck with the expense (within reason). We’re getting our children properly outfitted this year. The time to get children outside is as soon as possible. “Get ‘em while they’re young,” as the advertisers say.
The point is that you’ve got to fight fight fight to train your family to not just give lip service to loving the outdoors. Go to the mattresses on this one. Spare no expense. Look around at so many teenagers today, and their flat-out addiction to cell phones, video games, the Internet, movies, and other forms of media. The stakes are too high.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.