As I read that first statement or two I do remember catching grasshoppers in the vacant lot next to our home, climbing the mountains with my brother there in Brigham City, crossing the creek near our home on a homemade wooden bridge and floating little sticks down the ditch just outside our fence by our home. Then there was the fun of sloshing through the water on the lawn when Grandpa flooded it to irrigate it. Reading a book as I sat in the cherry tree was a pleasure and of course my brother and I liked eating the raspberries straight off the bushes and the strawberries off the plants. Cherries, apricots and peaches were available at times. We looked forward as we got bigger to biking around Brigham City, playing tennis at the high school or softball with our church group in the vacant lot.
According to Kimbell, “For most kids, life is different these days. Parents seem more afraid of letting their kids out of sight, except for things like sports—structured, supervised events. Kids seem to have more demands placed on their time, and when they do have time they often prefer to ‘play’ in front of a TV or computer screen. They don’t get outdoors as much” (Ibid.).
Health professionals, according to Kimbell, are concerned. “They point out all the benefits kids get from playing outside on their own, letting their imaginations run wild, challenging their bodies in new ways, developing social skills impossible to learn indoors in front of a TV. Kids have always needed that as part of growing up, and now they are not getting it enough” (Ibid.).
I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to work with an 8-year-old boy who hadn’t been to parks enough to know how to be comfortable going down a slippery slide. He didn’t know how to pump a swing or play tag with others around him. With a lot of praise, lots of opportunities, patience and encouragement, he did learn how to do these things.
I listen to parents say their child is unmanageable and sometimes realize that the child hardly ever leaves the house. Physical, social and educational needs are not being met. And yes, it will affect our children. I get concerned when I see home after home with virtually no backyard. That means there is no place to play, to plant flowers, vegetables, a tree to climb, etc.
So what can we do? Bountiful has some wonderful parks, tennis courts and ball fields. Centerville, Woods Cross and West Bountiful can offer others. North Salt Lake has a skate park for older youth. There are National Parks within reasonable distance, and kids can play there in creeks and explore the trails. Hiking, biking, fishing and just playing in the water at local lakes needs to be a common activity, especially in the summer time. Playing in the sprinklers in the back yard, or a water fight can be fun. Gathering rocks, pine cones or finding a tree to climb is an inexpensive and productive way to spend time.
Provo Canyon near Bridle Veil Falls has a delightful bike trail, and playing in the water at the bottom of the falls can be an adventure for children.
Having fun outdoors builds family relationships as well as widens the world for your children.