Take a moment and go back to the time when you were a child. Remember what kinds of things you did? If you were anything like me and had the opportunity, your childhood probably consisted of outdoor play. My childhood was all about running in the forest, playing hide and seek, climbing trees, building forts and playing games.
Many experts emphasize the importance of play and activity. But today, our children think of the outdoors as a mystery, misunderstood in its potential. The outdoors should be embraced as a great place to obtain stamina, endurance and strength that encompasses the mind, body and soul.
When I take children outdoors, it doesn’t take long to find something to do. They take the lead as they are the play experts, and I follow. A fallen log becomes a balance beam. At first a child timidly steps onto the log, takes your hand and slowly builds confidence. After a few tries, your hand is no longer required and the child has mastered balance and strength to navigate the log on their own.
We move on from the logs and find a hill on the trail. It may take just one child to run down the hill to spark the others into joining the race. Endurance is built through racing over and over again and stamina is developed as the children change directions, run up the hill and stop and turn. As I watch them, I wish I could bottle their energy for myself and wonder where it comes from. It comes from continuously moving. Like a wind-up flashlight, the more you move the gears the more energy it makes.
As we quiet down and come to a stream’s edge, we each pick up a rock and throw it into the water. A simple game we, adults, have all played for hours on end. Throwing movement creates strength and coordination, and skipping rocks adds precise and intricate movements.
Now, a rock thrown into the stream has caused something to move in the water. The children squint their eyes to see what it is. As they slowly navigate through the shallow stream, balancing and moving against the small current, their eyes light up, and they yell “crayfish”!
All the physical activity is now focused onto this small creature as the children attempt to problem-solve how to catch it. Eyes are focused on observing how the crayfish moves. Instinctively, the children bring together eye and hand coordination to capture the backward swimming creature. A child’s hands are poised to catch the crayfish. One hand avoids the pinchers in the front while the other quickly darts from behind. Suddenly, the crayfish is caught! This required agility, patience, stamina and strength, all brought together in that one stealth movement. The tentative energy that the children exhibited at the beginning of our hike is now ignited into passion; a passion to do more and learn more outside.
I encourage you to take your children out into nature and join them in their play. Let imagination and energy take over. Soon enough, you will find that you have all increased your strength, endurance and stamina while balancing your mind, body and soul.