Outdoor activities are not only fun but are also an excellent source of exercise and provide ample opportunities for creativity. There are many pleasurable ways to keep the little ones (and us older ones) busy both in summer and winter. The more active and stimulating the recreation is the better for young hands and minds. These activities are all excellent for learning to work peacefully together, sharing, and helping each other. Many of them also encourage the young ones to come up with new ideas, figure out problems, and entertain themselves. They also provide opportunities for us to spend time together as a family, creating good memories. All told, we encourage our young ones to spend time outside every day.
Playing in the sandbox is a great way for little children to spend some of their excess energy. When I was little I played in the sandbox a lot with my siblings. I have noticed that now the children don’t spend much time there because they would rather be doing whatever we older ones are doing. Still, some pretty big castles get built out there. Production of sand cookies and mud pies make for inexpensive tea parties in the playhouse. Tunnels and trapdoors reveal secret hiding places, and with clam shovels and dump trucks mountains rise and valleys sink so they still do spend many hours out there and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
Up in the play area by the chicken yard, not far from the play house, we have some monkey bars. I like to play on them, it is just as exciting to go on top as it is to go under them but my hands get more tired going under and they are much harder to do when it is cold. Our swing-set it exciting too, we pretend that it is a ship and I like to be the Captain.
We have had a swing set for as long as I can remember. And for an equally long time I can remember swinging on it. Because our swing set is located near the sand box we often played on and around both as a group.
A long time ago (well maybe not so long) in a land far away (I guess it wasn’t really all that far) there was a fort (a little tiny one).
Growing up would not have been the same without our tree fort. Serving most purposes from ship to island to castle, our tree fort saw heavy use. At the foot of the ladder was our sandbox, while at the other end we had access to a suspended cargo net. Between these attractions and the attached tire swing, we spent a large portion of each summer outdoors.
When I was younger, we had a cargo net, which was hung up in our backyard. By suspending it vertically between our tree fort and another large tree we could climb up into the second story of our fort from the net. The bottom corners of the net were tied to one side in order to form a horizontal safety net to catch us if we fell. We were so young then that I think Dad did the majority of the construction. Eventually we had to take it down. Certainly it provided excellent exercise. I have some good memories from that net. There are many ways to have fun, but this was a good one for us.
Many of us have bicycles. Joanna, Caleb, and I like to ride our bicycles up and down the driveway. It is very fun. Generally we ride in the spring and fall because of the heat in summer time. I find that it is hard to balance. I enjoy bicycling.
Making ice cream, what an adventure, all the way from mixing the ingredients and nibbling salty ice, to taking turns at cranking to eating the finished dessert. Who wouldn’t like making ice cream I wonder? Homemade ice cream is a very rare treat at our house. Once or maybe twice a year we find cream on sale, bake a cake and make a batch of ice cream to go with it. After one of us girls cooks and cools the eggs and cream (we have had the cream mixture turn to butter several times so we always cook it now) we turn it over to Dad and the rest of the children to do most of the cranking. Sometimes we freeze the ice in plastic yogurt containers the night before, then Dad has to bring out a sledge hammer and a gunnysack so that he can smash it up into usable sized pieces. When we were little I remember each of us wanted to turn the crank fast so that it would get done sooner, we all had to learn that fast action doesn’t hurry up the freezing process! When it’s all done it sure doesn’t take long to eat the ice cream all up. Yum, yum, what a treat!
For many years we have had the opportunity to swim at a nearby private lake. In order to have the lake to ourselves and thus control the situation we must schedule our swimming for meal times. Dad and Mom are the lifeguards and have taught us all to swim using a few basic strokes. The little ones learn to swim in the shallows where they can touch bottom at any time. After we can swim without lifejackets we are allowed to go out deeper after we pass the test. This is somewhat daunting. The young person had to step off the dock into water well over his head and swim a certain distance. Going under really frightened me, and I remained in the shallows for some time after I could
Living near a small lake, our family enjoys canoeing when the weather permits. Not only is it good exercise, it is also fun. And there is nothing quite like gliding silently through the water while seeing how close one can get to a turtle sunning itself on a log before it seeks safety below the surface. God’s creation is incredible! We have watched herons, geese, ducks, ospreys, and belted kingfishers. One day we even saw a loon. Sometimes we combine boating with swimming and capsize a canoe on purpose. Only once have we capsized one accidentally.
Tag is a very popular game in our family because the rules are so simple, it does not take any equipment and there are no time constraints. We have games of tag start up fairly regularly when we are walking or just outside to get fresh air. When playing tag on a walk we have found it advantages to play that when you are tagged you automatically become it, this is because freeze tag is impossible when you are on the move. Usually the game will start with just two or three people but slowly more and more will join as the game progresses.
We enjoy playing tag, and the fun competitive nature of the game forces everyone to push themselves, as I have seen when we have started a game when people are already tired out and yet they are able to draw on a resource of strength that they would not have used if they were just "exercising".
Many times we have played the exciting game of hide and seek. The person selected to be ‘it’ has to close his eyes and plug his ears and count to 100. He thinks of how to catch the most people before they can make it to base and of where they may be hiding. This can be very difficult so sometimes we put handicaps on long legged players, so they can't run so fast. Even so it is sometimes hard to catch the other players. Sometimes they gang up on the person who is ‘it’ by all heading for base at once. Still I really like to play hide and seek.
Every once in a while we have what we call a Field Day. We enjoy races and contests. On our last Field Day (New Year’s weekend 07) we did three legged races, sack races, spoon races, crab races and many more along with ring and bean bag throwing contests. However it was so cold that the favorite was sitting around the heater. Needless to say, Field Days are better left for warmer weather.
When we go for a walk we pass by a gigantic rock; we like climbing it. Starting on the opposite side of the road we get a running start and go scrambling up its extra high side. Those who succeed sit on top before they come slide-jumping down. Its great fun and we've all done it. There is another humongous rock around, it has steps and a ramp leading up to its top and a seat, but the most exciting place of all is a crevis where a slab of the rock split off of the main chunk. The hidden walkway between the two rocks is a secret hiding place. There are many other rocks but only this one is particularly peculiar. The end.
Walking as a family is a common activity for us. We try to walk every day. Backpacking isn’t much of a change from just walking. Sometimes we will take a meal with us, which we then eat in the woods. Because our family has always had small children, we have been limited in how far we could go, however this doesn’t limit what activities we can take on. Before we had older children who could really assist with activities, we made our trips very simple. Indeed, most still are simply walking or canoeing. With time we have tried more things. Now we take camping equipment and stay out several nights. We also practice survival skills, to improve our general preparedness. There are a great number of fun and educational activities that can be done in the woods. Simply being quiet can yield unending interest, when we learn to be still and simply observe God’s amazing creation.
I really enjoy camping It is a time when we are all together for 3 or 4 days in the woods. We do a lot of hiking and boating. Sometimes we also go to a range to shoot 22's, shotguns, and maybe even bows and arrows. All of these activities I enjoy. I like to be in the woods among God’s creation. Camping is an excellent time to learn skills which we would need if we ever have to leave our homes in an emergency. I think it is fun to learn and experience new things and to see the product of your labor. For example, last time we went camping, I learned how to make a fire. It was encouraging to see that I could do it.
One outdoor activity we have enjoyed is shooting. Because most people recognize the power of firearms, shooting is actually safer than other sports. A far greater proportion of sportsmen are injured in activities like golf and fishing. It all has to do with the respect we give to tools and how responsibly we act. I think that is a major benefit to shooting – it requires responsibility. Responsibility can only be given to young people when they have proven themselves responsible. I think our alertness to dangers is also enhanced by this activity.
We have picked up a clay pigeon thrower, so we have been able to learn to use a shotgun. The majority of our shooting is with .22s, however. Usually one person directs the operation while older people help younger people. Proficiency certainly requires coordination and lots of practice. While most sports help us build strength or coordination, the actual skills for most sports are usually not applicable in practical pursuits. This is not the case with shooting, which improves our ability to hunt, to eliminate varmints and to defend ourselves. Shooting is also a fairly family friendly activity. First, it has no regard for the size or strength of the participants, but more important, it requires close one on one interaction between older people and younger. Yes, it is true that in everything we do with our family, we need to be continually inputting into and training younger siblings. Shooting however is different. Because we are going slowly, I can give my whole concentration to one person, and because the one thing being done is very focused it is easy to train. Actually, I find shooting relaxing as well.
God’s creation is marvelous to behold. Though we seldom take time to sit and watch what takes place in the woods around us we do snatch little moments here and there to stop and watch and listen. God created everything with such wisdom and beauty and intricacy that even now in its fallen state where the whole of creation groans and travails the marvelous incomprehensible aspects of what He has done will still take your breath away and leave you speechless. We try to walk in the woods every day and have learned the names of most of the trees, birds, flowers and animals that inhabit our neck of the woods. From identifying flowers and collecting leaves to sketching during some quiet afternoon or watching the woods come to life on a cold fall morning, the beauty of God's handywork is everywhere around us. To be enjoyed, to be marveled at, to be loved, to stimulate us to praise and glorify God. All of creation bears witness to the Creator!
Having enough snow of the right consistency for sledding is somewhat of a rarity for us, so when we get it we invariable get the morning off from school to enjoy it. Dad packs a sledding lane for us by driving the truck up and down the hill numerous times making a five foot wide strip of hard packed snow on which sled runners can easily slide. Then we take down our sleds and troop up the long curving slope. At the top we turn and one by one at short internals, glide back down. With the snow just cold enough we can get enough momentum to swoop right down to our yard! Then begins the long trek up again, keeping alert for oncoming sledders. The little kids join a bigger person either lying on top of them if they are lying on the sled or sitting in front of them if they are sitting on their sled. If the sled gets going too fast to steer, well we just roll off into the snow and the sled, without enough weight to keep going, soon careens into the snow as well. When the sun has risen enough to warm the snow, our sled runners cut through to the ground and sledding stops for the day or if it stays cold we end our fun when we get cold enough to notice it. Back at the house we thaw our noses and toes and change into dry clothes before hurrying back to our waiting school work.
For us the snowmobile serves no practical purpose, mainly because we do not get enough snow in this area. Most winters there are only a half dozen days when there is enough snow to go across open ground and I have never seen enough snow to make it truly practical to go through the woods though I have tried and paid the consequences of having to drag the machine out when it got stuck, which was often. For that very good reason I now always carry a come-along. The only two benefits I have found from it are pleasure and driving skills, which it definitely does require more of than mowing the lawn.
When snow flies, we often take at least a day off school for sledding, snowmen, and Fox & Geese. Some of the best fun comes when the snow packs well into snowballs. If we are on a family walk, we usually keep to target practice on passing tree trunks. Sometimes we get into a full snowball fight. With many ages we can’t do a full ‘capture the flag’ scenario, but we still have a lot of fun. Some years we have enough ‘packing’ snow to make snow forts (too cold and it doesn’t ‘stick’).
Snow is lots of fun but it's cold too. Ps. 147 says that “God giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold?” As long as we are bundled up well we can stand His cold for a short time but even then we are glad for the warmth of the house and a wood fire to thaw out our frozen fingers. On warmer days the snow packs well and snowball fights, snowmen and snow forts along with sledding are all exciting options. On colder days when the snow is dry and powdery our games are limited. Fox and Geese is a favorite that works well even when the snow won’t pack. We tramp out a huge circle in the front yard with many, many one way paths running in to the center like spokes on a giant wagon wheel. Then one hungry fox chases all the rest of the players who are the fat geese around and around the track trying to catch some supper. The unfortunate goose who becomes fox’s dinner automatically becomes the fox and the game continues. We play after school is out for the day and come in breathless at dusk with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. Any good active game like this is excellent for our health. It's also great since it can incorporate many players of varying ages.
Above we have mentioned some of our favorite outdoor activities. Depending on the time of year we may be taking a break for swimming on a hot day or we may be bundling up for a snowball fight. We all enjoy being outside.
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