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Don’t forget the outdoors

By Nathan Rice

They groaned when I gave them my answer, but I wasn’t being swayed in my decision. “No,” I said, “You can’t stay inside. Turn off the game. We’re all going outside.”

I had no problem with the game they were playing. After all, I’ve been rescuing that same princess since long before any of them were born. But the sun was shining, the temperature outside was comfortable, and the princess who has been repeatedly captured for more than three decades wasn’t going anywhere.

There are a lot of great indoor things that can help children enjoy the summer, and I don’t have a problem with them. It’s OK to play some video games, enjoy a TV show or movie, build a Lego city, or play with dolls or toy cars in the house. These are all good things, but we should be careful that our children aren’t missing the wonders of the outdoors.

Playing outside was more common “back in the day,” but some children today who aren’t used to playing outside may initially need a little help finding things to do. Tell her that Barbie’s tea party is a garden tea party which is being held outside, next to the garden. Tell him that the green army men have an advantage by attacking from the top of the hill, but the gray army men are determined to put up a strong fight. Allow him to dig up a small spot in the yard to make an exciting race track with small jumps for his toy cars. A few suggestions like these may lead to the return of their own imaginations.

We can also help them enjoy the great outdoors by ensuring they have some things to play with when they are outside. Frisbees, footballs, sidewalk chalk and baseballs with gloves can all go a long way by providing them some things to do when their feet are on the grass instead of the carpet.

Don’t be afraid to join them outside. Grab a seat at that garden tea party, pick up your own glove and show him the proper way to throw to first base, or create a game that you can all play together. Things don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be fun. Spray-paint some circles in the grass and label them with different point totals. Then take turns throwing the frisbee to see who land the frisbee in the circles to gain the most points in a certain number of throws.

We can begin by introducing those particularly leery of the outdoors to the fun things that exists outside the house. Visit the Great Dismal Swamp, plan a day at the beach, or stop by a park for the playground and a picnic. Things like these can introduce children who aren’t used to being outside to many of the great benefits of playing outside of the house. They may not have these things readily available in the backyard, but it can introduce the idea that being outside is fun and can lead them to enjoying more of their own little spot of nature.

The summer goes quickly. Don’t let them miss out on the outdoors when the sun is shining. It will do them some good, and it will do us some good to join them.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.