Growing up, I would head outside and just disappear for hours. My friends and I would bike, we’d build clubhouses, we’d play on swingsets, and more. Today there is far less of that. We actually chose the neighborhood where we live partly because we consistently saw kids – and adults – outside their houses, playing and talking and just plain old having fun. That’s exactly what the NFL Play60 campaign is all about, so you know I’m happy to promote it (sans compensation) for VolunteerSpot.com (another of my favorite tools and not sponsored).
We’re lucky that our school is a big believer in gym and has gym every single day where the kids are active, plus recess. That’s great, and I’m proud of our school for believing in the power of activity, but it still isn’t enough. And yes, the wee ones are in athletic activities – gymnastics and tae kwon do – but it’s important for so many reasons for them to just play, too. And so we make time for play.
In the mornings, they love to get up and ready early before the bus comes so that they can hang out outside. And I do mean literally hang. They adore climbing the tree in our front yard and go up and down like little monkeys.
Or they’ll grab their flying disc and throw it around the yard to see who can throw it furthest or highest or… onto the roof, which is my personal favorite. They’ve gone into the woods and found huge sticks that they use to “hike” up and down the hill from our front yard to our back yard or for some yet unnamed game they play. They’ll race each other from spot to spot or play tag.
Granted, none of it is the out way past dark Ghost in the Graveyard from when I was a kid, but I love the imagination they use. Mister Man at recess has invented “Drawing Wars” where he and three friends created comic book characters and then use their time at recess on the playground to act out the comics they’ve drawn. I haven’t witnessed it myself, but from the stories I’ve heard from various teachers, it’s quite the entertaining game.
Once summer truly hits and we’re spending most of our days at the pool, don’t get me started on their activity level. I love the pool because there are so many places to go and things to do at our pool. There are diving boards that they love, there are slides kids can race down, and there are three distinct areas within the pool to play everything from the traditional Marco Polo to tag to games that I haven’t yet figured out, but let’s just say they eat a lot and then fall asleep quickly on the days we’re at the pool.
I will even admit to using exercise as a bribe. On days when we can get homework and dinner completed in a timely manner, I “allow” the wee ones to go around our neighborhood with me. They can bike or walk or ride their scooters or even use the Plasma Car – although Little Miss did that once, and I think even her never tiring arms got fatigued partway through the mile plus walk. I walk behind, and the rule is that they can get to a corner than have to come back to where I am so that I can see them at all times and reinforce the rules about crossing streets.
It’s amazing to me every single day how powerful that incentive to go out on a special bike ride with me is. The wee ones now ask almost every day if they’ll be able to go on a bike ride that night, and they’re disappointed when they can’t. Sometimes it’s just once around the neighborhood because we only have 20-25 minutes to spare. Sometimes we go around twice or three times, and they’d go more if I’d let them.
They haven’t yet figured out that it’s about exercise, but it’s about so much more than that. The play is about taking time for themselves to recharge. It’s about using their imaginations to figure out what to do next. It’s about taking the initiative to figure out on their own what they should be doing and what comes next, responsibility and decisiveness that they need to develop to become productive adults. It’s about using some of those muscles for balance and strength and endurance that would otherwise go idle. And it keeps going because really it’s about having fun. No matter what it is, it has to be fun.
I know the wee ones aren’t the only ones who go outside to play. They aren’t the only ones who have a huge imagination. And the NFL Play60 organization is currently holding a contest for kids 6-13 soliciting ideas for new ways to keep kids active and healthy. So. Do you have an idea for a NEW way to get active? Encourage your kids to enter the NFL Play60 Invention Contest! Enter today!
In the interest of full disclosure, I am promoting this contest for VolunteerSpot.com. I am not compensated, nor am I receiving product to do so. I just believe in it.