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Get Your Children Outside to Play

Get Your Children Outside to Play

A few weeks ago, on a beautiful fall day, my boys and I biked to a local park to play basketball and climb around on the jungle gym. There were other children also outside and I noticed three boys, about 10 or 11, were huddling around each other staring at a cell phone. They were engrossed. As my boys and I played, these older kids remained hunched over this electronic device for at least another thirty minutes. 

This is not what playing outside should look like.

I grew up spending a lot of time outside. I was usually with my sisters or friends, but as I got a older I would occasionally be alone. We would swim, ride our bikes, skateboard, jump on a trampoline, play football, basketball, or capture the flag. We would hike in the creek, build forts, and climb trees. We spent thousands of hours playing outside. 

Kids need to be outside, to play, to run, to explore. As a father of two boys, I know this, but sometimes forget. This fall, I was reminded of how beneficial it is for my kids to regularly play outside. Over the course of a few weeks we hiked, biked, played sports, camped, and experienced some natural wonders. It was tremendously joyful for all of us. As a result, we all slept better, ate better, and were generally in a better mood.

Kids need space to run and explore. Inside they have physical boundaries and limitations. Outside they are free to move their bodies with speed and strength. They can push themselves. Outside, they can touch and break most things without much consequence. Inside the house can feel like a museum filled with crystal vases for a young boy full of energy.

The progress of science has demonstrated many benefits to spending more time being active outside. Daily active play for children improves overall health. There are mental benefits from spending time in nature such as taking a hike in the woods. Moderated heat and cold stress both active different pathways benefiting overall health. Exposure to outside light improves vitamin D levels and helps align us to a healthy circadian rhythm. 

When kids are outside you get to ask them these questions:

  • Want to pick up that stick and break it?  
  • Want to climb on that rock?
  • And jump off? 
  • Want to run and yell?
  • Want to goof off with your friends?
  • Want to jump in that puddle?

Do it! What’s the worst that can happen? Your children may get some bumps and bruises and their feelings may get hurt from time to time. They’ll likely get dirty and occasionally ruin some clothes. A few band aids, some soap, and a home cooked dinner can remedy most mishaps that happen outside.

Inside our house the conversation often goes like this:

  • Stop running!
  • Don’t jump on the furniture!
  • Use your inside voice!
  • Be careful!
  • That could break!

Our world has become too sanitized and controlled. Children benefit from dirt and discomfort. Fortunately, nature provides both.

Our children need to play outside more. Their schedules should allow for regular outdoor play time. The rain, cold, or heat shouldn’t stop them. Kids need to be able to just be kids and being outside is their natural habitat to do so. 

Therefore, go buy your children some boots, open the door, and let them be themselves.

Fathers Need to Keep Dreaming Alive

Fathers Need to Keep Dreaming Alive

We all have dreams. We dream of happiness, achievement, and fulfillment. We dream to connect deeply with others. The opportunity to achieve these is what fuels us and makes us human.

I learned something from my parents about how to dream. In the early 1980’s while in the throws of raising a family with three children, they dreamed about spending more time boating. They loved the playfulness and joy that came out as a family when we were on the water.

So while they were working two full-time jobs and raising kids, they managed to find land, design a house, save the money, and build a lake house. This was a dream of theirs and they saw it to completion when their children were all under the age of 10, which was probably the busiest decade of their lives.

That dream of theirs keeps on giving to me and my family to this day. Now my parents are grandparents and take joy in my family and my siblings families use and appreciating their lake house.

My boys love it. They love grandpa’s boat, swimming in the lake to keep cool, and taking naps on the porch. To be fair, everyone likes taking naps on the porch.

Dreaming should not end when we become parents. Or be put on hold and then start up again after our children grow up and move out of the house. They should be reinvigorated with a new motivation and passion. They should be visited during routine self-evaluations and stoked by regular action. They should be fueled by a new source of joy, our children.

Since becoming a father I have been revisiting my personal dreams very often. And my dreams have changed. What I value has changed. Money and stuff isn’t as important now. Time and experience with those I love is.

I have found that I dream best when I’m walking by myself. Whether it is on a hike in the woods or just a quick stroll around the neighborhood at dusk, there is something about solitude in the outdoors that triggers my imagination and wonder. With distractions minimized, the majesty of the world around me provides the energy and I allow myself to let go.

I dream of more time with my family.  I dream of simplicity in my routine and less distractions from material things. I dream of developing a few, very deep relationships with good men. I dream of growing skills for my career so I can provide more for others. I dream more of financial independence. I dream of having a six pack and being able to dunk a basketball again. I dream of long, health marriage with my best friend.

And I’ve been called to action in support of these newly invigorated dreams.  I try new methods, routines, or diet strategies. I wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, workout more, eat healthier, and write more. I play with my kids, write less emails, and automate the mundane.

I’ve also gotten ruthless at elimination. I’ve eliminated much of the time I used to waste on mindless web-surfing or watching brainless TV shows.  My web-surfing is usually focused with a purpose of something I’m trying to learn about.

I am more selective on what I read. I started this blog and built it from scratch without knowing anything about websites. I’ve become very picky on how I spend my time at work and at home. I’ve learned to say no more.

We as fathers also influence our children’s ability to dream. They learn from us leading by example when we allow ourselves to dream and go chase them. Their dreams will be different from ours and that is OK. Our encouragement for them to dream while they are young will be critical in their willingness to do it later on in life.

As a father, I am trying to focus my time, energy, and resources to dream big and go chase them. And I want my children to have no unreasonable fears that prohibits them from dreaming or chasing those dreams. Our humanity is built on hope that our dreams may come true, so we as fathers need to do what we can to foster that hope.