There’s nothing to do…

      There is utter stillness in the heat of this steamy day. The cooling breeze of flight through the air, on a swing that burns my butt when I sit on it, refreshes me… I’m making a potion with cut grass, bits of leaves, rose petals and smooshed berries that will probably kill me if I eat them. The heady fragrance of wet earth and the icky granular feel of muck makes a squishing sound and oozes through my fingers as I create mud pies for the main course of this feast… I walk barefoot over the hot prickly grass of a field, the scent of clover, hum of cicadas, and warble of birdsong following me as we take a shortcut to the pond for a swim; the release of caked on mud as I tentatively enter the water feels so good; the cool astringent smell of green dripping from my hiding place under the the raft soothes me.
      Our most vivid memories are deeply sensual. Within the domain of electronics something is lost in our experience of the world. It’s so sad that so many children don’t know how to keep themselves occupied without a TV or computer or some other digital device.
      The beginning of summer is very much like the start of a new year- filled with possibility and promise. Don’t let it slip by without making the most of it. Call a family meeting and make an exhaustive list of everything you and the kids might do this summer.
This area offers so much in the way of it’s parks and festivals; out door concerts and theater groups. There are playgrounds and sporting events at any park or school yard, bicycle paths, streams to explore, hiking trails and nature preserves.
       But perhaps the best fun of all is within our own back yard and neighborhood. The the spontaneous games of hide and go seek, kickball, tag, and capture the flag; pitching a tent (or throwing a blanket over the clothes line) and toasting marshmallows, stargazing and catching fireflies; building forts and making secret hideouts. These are the things we remember from our childhood.
      Don’t let your kids become junior couch potatoes. There is so much more to life than remaining practically comatose for hours on end in front of a screen. Set a daily limit on computer and TV time and then enforce it, despite the fact that at times it doesn’t seem worth the struggle. It is our job as parents to teach kids how to make their own fun. This requires effort on our part.
      Get your children into gardening. Even if you don’t have a plot of land at your disposal, try container gardening or look into renting a spot at a community garden. Peas, carrots, beans and salad greens are easy to grow and harvest without having to wait for months to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Kids who might have turned their noses up at these things are more willing to eat vegetables if they have had a hand in growing them.
      So often when you ask a child where something comes from (milk, fruits and vegetables, strawberry jam, apple sauce), they respond, based on their limited experience: “the store”. Get a few families together and go to a pick-your-own fruit farm , or a dairy or sheep farm. Children are fascinated to see beyond the obvious and start looking at the world in a whole new way.
      Get the kids involved with making fresh squeezed lemonade, ice cream, jams and pies, or otherwise preparing local harvest for future use. Letting kids participate in the production of the food they eat is a tremendous learning experience, provides a healthy alternative to processed foods, aids the local economy, and helps our planet in so many ways.
      Get out the sidewalk chalk; play hopscotch or hangman, jacks, jump rope, charades.
    Have a neighborhood carnival with bike decorating and face painting; bean bag toss, drop the clothes pin into the milk bottle, and penny pitch; three-legged and sack races, hula hoop contests, scavenger hunt, wheel barrow rides, water balloons and lemonade stand.
     Find a thicket of bushes and play jungle. Press flowers and make butterfly nets and daisy chains and crowns of leaves. Play in the rain. Make mud pies.
      Kids growing up in this day and age are not necessarily aware of the great fun to be had away from the TV and computer. We can’t just tell them to go play and assume they know what that means. We have to show them how it’s done. This takes time, but it is time so well spent. And your children will thank you for it.- RDW (6-21-10)

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