It’s no secret that kids today spend more time than ever plugging into their devices and pulling away from low-tech activities. There’s an inverse relationship between the amount of time children spend looking at a screen and the physical activity they get.
If you ask your kids to turn off the video game and go get some exercise, it shouldn’t come as a shock when they groan and complain. However, you can make the suggestion more appealing when you reclaim what’s wonderful about the outdoors. Instead of dragging your kids out for a lap around the block, lure them out with these oft-forgotten childhood experiences and start making some cherished memories.
I realized how far we’ve come from the firefly nights of my youth when I took my boys out to chase fireflies for the first time. They spent most of the evening either running from the bugs, or snatching them so aggressively they weren’t long for this world. The fine art of gently plucking a firefly from the air is something to be mastered, and my kids hadn’t yet had the opportunity to practice.
We’d spent so much time in cramped apartment complexes that we’d barely even encountered fireflies before this summer, and even then it was only my diligent search for a park with late hours that gave us the chance. It’s easy to make excuses for missing out on the luminescent bug hunt, but after a little time ironing out the finer points of catching the bugs, I’m certain it’s worth the effort.
Leaving the Paved Trail
Too often the refrain is to “stay on the sidewalk,” “follow the path,” and “stop,” “wait,” or “keep close.” While it’s no easy trick to find that balance between safe supervision and free exploration, it’s not impossible. Let your kids lead. Find wide open spaces where they can follow their own trail. Don’t stop them the next time they spot a winding dirt path that departs from the paved one. If they’re too conditioned to staying on the sidewalk, lead them off yourself and explore what’s just beyond the well-trod roadways.
If you’re a neat freak like I am, this is something you’ll have to prepare yourself for. Stash towels, wipes, and plastic bags in the car. Keep the hamper by the door. Then take a deep breath, remind yourself of the greater good, and let them go. Sometimes today’s society gets so sterile that kids lose out on the seer tactile thrill of squishing through the mud.
Sure, mud is messy. But mud is also fun. I’m about as Monica-Geller-like as you can be and even I have learned to revel in the messy splashes on my ankles that are usually a surefire sign of an amazing day.
Gazing at Stars
Unfortunately, light pollution makes the stargazing experiences of decades ago an impossibility in today’s urban areas. That sickly orange tint you see hovering above major cities is known as sky glow, and it can obstruct your view of the stars for miles. The sky glow radiating from Los Angeles is visible 200 miles away in an airplane.
If you can’t find a good local spot for stargazing, make a point of including it in your next vacation. If you’re lucky enough to head somewhere like Death Valley National Park in California and Nevada, or Haleakala National Park in Maui, you can enjoy some of the best stargazing in the world. Whether you’re getting a little extra light gazing from a local park, or you’re heading to the wilderness for a real show, give your kids a glimpse of the way the sky should really look.
It may take a little extra effort today to incorporate the activities that came naturally to kids in the past, but it’s worth the extra trip or added planning to get your kids out and experiencing something beyond what they can see on TV.