Take Your Kids Outdoors

Kids spend well over 40 HOURS per week in front of electronic screens, but less than 40 MINUTES per week in nature. Screens are ruling teens.

Delayed Gratification

A major component of growing up is learning to deal with long waits and unexpected delays, yet nearly everything is now available in an instant. If we are going to prepare our kids for the best things in life, we need to teach them to wait and reward them for being patient. Kids need opportunities to practice patience that are followed by rewards for sticking with it to the end—whether it’s a 500-piece puzzle or a friendship with a neighbor that takes a long time to develop.

Once again, the push-button culture is working against kids. They are constantly given immediate, customized, positive feedback from their cell phones, iPods, video games, YouTube, and Facebook. These are places where they can hit pause, fast-forward, or reset any time they like with no consequences. But in real life, and especially in the natural world, there are no fast-forward or reset buttons. In order to experience a sunset, you have to watch for a while. A computer cannot simulate that experience.

The Need for Nature

boy fishingRichard Louv, author of the best-selling book Last Child in the Woods, understands this problem more than anyone, and loves children enough to cry out for them, “Let the children play outdoors!” His books and lectures have inspired a national movement that wants to leave no child inside. He encourages all families to embrace the nature that is in their local community. “For children,” he writes, “nature comes in many forms. A pet that lives and dies; a worn path through the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles—whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Nature offers healing for a child.”1

Louv explains how our children’s generation is suffering from what he calls “nature deficit disorder,” a preventable ailment of the body, mind, and soul. Kids just don’t go outdoors anymore. Continue reading “Take Your Kids Outdoors”

Play Well This Summer!

Summer School.

Summer Job.

Summer Reading.

Yes, parents need to keep kids mentally active and productive in the summer. Growing up well requires hard work and intellectual development year round.

However, parents also need to help kids enjoy life fully, and that absolutely requires fun — the sort of fun that is a little dangerous and a whole lot dirty, wet, and sweaty.

The best kind of play requires kids to focus every ounce of their mental, emotional, and physical energy into that activity, and it should not include a digital screen. Video games are fine, but that’s not the best sort of play. It should look something like this.

So, this summer, consider what your family can do that is outside-the-theme-park fun. What can you get your kids to do that is requires movement, creativity, mental focus, and courage. What fun activities require all the senses? Here are a few ideas.

Continue reading “Play Well This Summer!”

Get Out and Play!

Yesterday afternoon was a cold one – a great day to be inside with some hot chocolate.  The wind chill was in the single digits.  Four inches of snow and ice covered the ground.  Inside, we were perfectly warm and dry.

There were five of us (ages 7, 11, 19, 38, 39), standing around in the kitchen eating some chips, crab dip, and cookies for an after-school snack.  We were kicking around ideas of what to do for the next hour before dinner.

Option A:  Watch TV (The Muppet Show on dvd) or internet videos (Super Bowl commercials)

Option B:  Play a video game (Guitar Hero)

Option C:  Play a board game, cards, or BananaGrams

Option D:  Get all bundled up and go sledding.

Sledding seemed like the most fun but would require the most effort by far.  I didn’t really want to mess with finding five sets of hats, gloves, boots, snow pants, and jackets, and the cleanup is always a hassle too.  However, I thought that I really needed some exercise, so we went for it.

It was the best part of the day by far – full of danger, excitement, laughter, and fun exercise.  Yes, it required a lot of preparation, some patience, some fighting against the bitter wind, and some counseling of the 7 year old.  But what an experience!  The picture of three kids mashed together in a big plastic sled, about to shoot down the hill, is worth a hundred times more than any kind of picture of those kids sitting in front of the television.

We all need more of this.

“Life is about being out, and experiencing it!” Tiki Barber

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