Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Get up! Go outside and play!"

Well, in the Hinz household, we just finished off our very first soccer season (possibly of many to come). I have never been in too big of a hurry to involve my children in organized sports, or any other organized activities for that matter. I love helping my children learn to foster their own creativity and imagination! They can play together for hours without the help of a video game, TV, computer, or soccer team. While all of these activities and others are fine, I guess I tend to be more old-fashioned in this way; I love giving my children many opportunities to create their own games and activities. It's amazing what they come up with sometimes. I guess I could be categorized as the kind of mom who tells her kids, "Get up! Go outside and play!" Okay, generally I accompany them to the backyard because they are young but even when I don't they play as kids should play.

I was by no means a tomboy as a child, but I did love being outside. I'm pretty sure that we spent most of our spring, summer, and fall days outside. Yes, I liked playing inside too with Barbies, my doll house, and Holly Hobby Bake Oven, but some of my most fond childhood memories are outside memories. When I was 8 we lived in a neat neighborhood in Lynchburg, Va. There was a tree to the side of the backyard in which my brother built a makeshift ladder to climb up to the first branch. He was quite the little monkey so I'm sure he then climbed up as high as he could go! I was fully content to climb the ladder to that first big branch and claim my perch. I can still picture the view from that branch. I felt like I was so high I could see the world! Most likely if I were to revisit that home today(and if the tree was still there) I would be amazed at how close to the ground that first branch really was. But, I not only felt like I could see the whole world, I remember sitting there imagining that the whole world was open to me--that the possibilities were endless! I did some of my very best dreaming from up on that tree branch in Lynchburg, Virginia.

In that same neighborhood there was an area up the street that we called a bamboo forest. Thinking back on it, I'm not certain what all was there, but there seemed to be a good deal of bamboo wood and to us, it was very tall and full of adventure. We loved going there. On the other side of the neighborhood was a small park. There was a big hill at this park with several bike trails (really they were just divots from kids repeatedly riding their bikes down the hill). A couple seemed very steep and one was just right for the not-so-daring (that would be me). But, we loved riding our bikes over to this park. We often spent time playing in the woods behind our backyard. We loved being outside! Sure, we could make fun inside too, but playing outside is what we wanted to do.

My kids are the same way! They want to head outside as soon as they finish breakfast. I often hear huffs and sighs when I tell them they need to first brush their teeth. They could stay outside from sunrise to sunset if I let them. And, as I said before, when they don't initiate it, then I'm the one who will kick them outdoors....gently of course! Not only is the fresh air and vitamin D from the sun good for them, but something else happens outside. It's that same something that happened to me as an 8 year old girl each time I sat on that tree branch. The sky opens up! Literally! Whether you live in a breathtakingly beautiful part of country with hills a plenty, or by the vast blue sea, or inside the city limits, the sky is big and beautiful. Sure, most of us wouldn't mind a change of scenery occasionally. (I live in Toledo, OH so I can attest to this.) But go outside and look up. Look really far up. Look up so that it hurts your neck. The sky is the limit!

We're all children at heart! Life can beat us up a bit. But, we all still need to envision that the sky is the limit--that our realm of possibilities is endless. From this vantage point we can do great things! We can conquer the world! We can change lives! We can live that dream that's within us!

My 4 year old finally learned how to pump on the swing yesterday. We've been practicing with him for months and he finally got it! It's all he wants to do. Thankfully we have a swing in our backyard, along with a never-ending fort, a huge sandbox complete with a crane, and a coffee shop (not an ice-cream shop or a house, mind you) on the first level of the fort so that mom can have an endless supply of pretend decaf mochas while outside! My husband cannot stop expanding my children's play area! He now has plans to put seats on the upper deck of one of the forts so that our patio chairs can remain on the patio. His mind never rests when it comes to what he can do to improve our kids' outside experiences. We live in the city and have a small backyard, but my kids do not have a small mindset when it comes to playing outdoors. Just like their Dad, they're constantly creating things and coming up with new ideas. Just yesterday Jaden, with my husband's help, installed gutters to the coffee shop in case it's raining and someone wants to order a coffee. He designed them, nailed the wood together, helped Dad caulk the pieces together, and had a plan for the downspout (with his trucks catching the rain). They're constantly envisioning their world as bigger and better. And why shouldn't they?

When I watch my Luke, proud as can be, pumping his legs on the swing and getting higher and higher all by himself, I remember that feeling. It's been a little while since I've been on a swing because I'm usually pushing a baby on the swing, but I remember the feeling as a child swinging so high. Just like the feeling on that tree branch! I could see everything and conquer the world! I love sending my children outside to play. I hope that they experience the exact feelings I always did: adventure, excitement, hope, creativity, and tranquility. The sky is the limit!

Send your kids outside to play. Even better, go outside with them. Wherever you are look up! Look way up! Take a long, deep breath and inhale the beauty of the sky and the endless possibilities of your life and theirs. Sit on a tree branch, ride a bike, or swing as high as you can. Remind yourself of that childhood optimism and innocence. The sky is open to you!

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