Why playing might be the best thing you do this year

Is it really possible to have too much of a good thing?  What if it’s a GREAT thing?

I’m coming off a huge high right now.  I just got off a 3 day trip with JUST my husband (thanks to the babysitting generosity of my Mom).  We spent the time skiing, laughing, eating great food, catching up with friends, and a whole lot of amazing conversation.  We take off on a trip with just the two of us every year, and I’m convinced that it’s one of the best things for our marriage…but that’s a story for another post.

As we’ve been soaking up this change of scenery and lower temperatures in an awesome Utah winter, we’ve come to the not so startling conclusion that we play A LOT.  Especially compared to most of our peers with several little kids.

play skiing

Our Adventure Dad at play

 

 

Yes, if you know us or follow us, you’re thinking “tell me something I didn’t already know”.

Well, friends, this habit is not going to stop.  If anything, it’s going to get worse.  The skiing, camping, climbing, hiking will only get more intense as the years go on, and the evening bike rides and fishing trips will only get more ingrained into who we are.

And that’s exactly how we want things to be.

Because little do you know, all this playing is incredibly good for us (in much more than a “you need to breathe fresh air” way).

One look at our family, and people often throw out a trite “they PLAY too much”.


I can see why they’d think that…While other kids may be getting their average 7 hours per day of screen time (source),  we’re at the beach teaching our kids how to fine-tune their balance on a paddle board.  When our neighbors are going to a movie or restaurant, we’re bent over, helping our toddler figure out their skis on the beginner slope.  Afternoon nap?  Sorry, we’ll probably be out racing around the town looking like a mini biker gang with our family’s plethora of bikes.

skiing 008

It’s true, we “play” a lot, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

What you may not realize by taking a quick glimpse at our family is that all of this play is deliberate and carefully planned out.  While we’re always looking to have a great time, we’re more interested in the bigger picture:

  • How can we help our daughter face her fears?
  • How can we encourage our boys to get along better?
  • What will we do on our camping trip to help our son develop more self-confidence?
  • When am I going to get the time to think, dream and plan the future with my wife?
  • How can I teach my son the independence and critical thinking he will need to succeed?

What most people don’t realize is that the play and adventuring that we do together as a family is one of the best ways to build both strong kids and an amazing family.  While we’re out exploring, we’re removing ourselves from most of the distractions around us.  No internet, video games, iPad, or TV fighting for attention.  No dirty house begging to be cleaned, no projects or homework to do – because it is just US!

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Granted, we rarely take trips with the specific purpose of solving a problem.  But while our minds are free from distractions, we’re able to more clearly see all the teaching opportunities that are around us.  The travel time to and from an adventure allows for our best time to talk, to plan and hone in on what will be the most beneficial for our family and for ourselves. Because we are out there, we get the opportunity to open up and talk – to the kids, to each other, to ourselves.

Play is our escape, but it’s also our therapy.  It’s a whole lot easier to get a kids attention while you’re alone on a trail or a ski lift than when you’re in the middle of a shopping mall.  Out on trip is where we talk and learn; where we listen and teach great lessons.  Play is where we mend hurt feelings and create strong bonds.
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What about WORK?

No, it’s not just all play and no work around here.   Just because our kids go on lots of adventures doesn’t mean they are lacking in the hard work category.  In fact they probably have more than most kids–by design.  In addition to their school work and rotating chores of bathrooms, vacuuming and dusting, our kids get the added responsibility of caring for equipment and prepping for trips as well.  They are masters at drying out snow clothes, packing a day pack, cleaning a tent, pumping up the bike tires and rinsing out paddling gear.  Don’t even get me started on how many early mornings and late nights my husband and I spend preparing for all this play…

Because although there are a lot of things that need improving in our lives, the amount of time that we spend playing is not one of them.  But we’re faced with an even bigger challenge:

Finding strength, patience, endurance and ultimately our best selves through it all.

Yes, that’s the challenge –for all of us.  

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