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Learning while Playing Outside

September 4th, 2012 - Category: Video Games


We went camping as a family for Labor Day this weekend and after everyone put up their “technology toys”, I was reminded about what is so great about the outdoors.

The trip started with kids playing games on their Nintendo, listening to music on their Ipod, and texting on their phones.  There was a general complaining when we were out of internet and cell phone range and everyone’s batteries started running out.

That first night it was like pulling teeth to get everyone to help set up the tents and start a campfire and there were lots of complaints about how bored they were and how much they were missing face-book.  Attitudes didn’t change until the next day when someone found a lizard, and that’s all it took.

Off they were into the great outdoors.  They showed up briefly every now and then to get a drink or get a plastic cup to dig in the dirt with.

Their day consisted of making bridges, scaling rocks, and climbing trees.  I, on the other hand saw things differently.  I saw how they had to cooperate and work together to make the bridge.  I saw how they had to problem solve to figure out how to scale the rocks to get to the other side of the ravine.  I saw how they helped their younger siblings up when climbing trees that were a little too big.  I saw them living and growing as a family right before my eyes.

They played all day long.  I didn’t have to haggle over screen hours or ban them from certain games until their chores were done.  In fact, I had to bribe them back to camp after dark, with roasted marshmallows that evening.

The next day was similar and the fighting was no longer about who had the most points on their favorite video game but who had the longest scratch or the most dirt around their ankles.

Day four was when we had to leave.   Faces were drawn and the complaining had turned into “Why do we have to go home?  Can’t we stay here forever?”

There was still fighting when everyone had to clean out their tents and roll up the sleeping bags, but the fighting was a little different this time.  I noticed a little more working together, like on the bridge.  I noticed a little more understanding when folding up the tent, just like scaling the rocks.  I noticed a little more patience with their family and help given to their younger brothers and sisters, just like climbing the trees.

I guess I was blessed to grow up in an age when kids played outside more.  When the worth of my day was based on how dirty I was when I got home and the ring around the bathtub.  If my mother made me get undressed on the porch before I came in the house, that was a great day.  I’ve never regretted a day spent in the outdoors and I know my life has benefited in more ways than one because of it.  I hope my kids can say the same.

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