Friday, March 7, 2014

A Meaningful Life: Outside Play

 We live an idyllic lifestyle. Any day the weather's nice, you an expect to see a gaggle of kids playing up and down the street, and the babies with their mothers enjoying the sunshine. I feel very fortunate to have landed in this little patch of heaven, and it has impacted my soul more than I can say. It makes me sad to hear things like this or this, to know that in our society the importance and frequency of play is null. 

Unfortunately in our world of over-stimulation and over-scheduled activities, it might not be as easy as plopping a kid outside and saying, "Here, go play." In a world where children are used to being entertained, we can't expect them to all of the sudden "grow out of" this habit. The culture of "unplugged" play is something that needs to be taught.

Children are taught the importance of play by how we treat it. If it's reserved for back rooms or a distraction "when Mother needs to work," they will see it's not at the top of the priority list. But when Mother is involved in play, she says this: play is a lifelong commitment. We are taught that "happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved [...] on principles of [...] wholesome recreational activities [among other principles]." But those principles can and should not be reserved for solely when mother and father can participate together.

I'll admit that the main reason I sit outside while my children play is because of the safety aspect. And I know that once they are old enough, it is unlikely I will go outside with them every time. And I know that eventually we will move away from this beautiful world where friends and neighbors are plenty. But I don't want to let our lives become ordinary. Where Mom stays inside while the kids play. Where a family football game is reserved for when Dad comes home.

You might not have caught it, but in the first photo my good friend and neighbor Rachel is driving. She is a perfect example to me of a mother who plays and puts "wholesome recreational activities" on her priority list each day. Most of her kids can play without supervision, so she doesn't participate every time, but it's usual to see her lead out in a game of catch, or her driving the pedal cart, or her leading the way on her bicycle. 

I want outside play to become our family culture, and I want to teach my children the importance of this kind of play by my own actions. May God help me in my efforts.

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