Photo: 3 out of 4 of my children having a really awesome day at the Great Sand Dunes.
I was reading this article today about some "new" playgrounds that are popping up in the UK.
They're sort of like junk yards that kids are allowed to play in. There are pallets to stack up, barrels kids can set fires in, and old tires they can roll around.
These parks are supervised by adults called "Playworkers" who rarely intervene, and pretty much let kids be crazy, and experiment with their environment.
Reading that article immediately took me back to my childhood.
My dad drove a garbage truck when I was a kid, and he would bring home all sorts of things that were perfectly good, or salvageable. Things he couldn't bear to throw away. And if I'm being honest, mostly things that he would never have occasion to use, but man did we have a ton of stuff to build things with.
I created a mash up of a tricycle and a garden cart that I would drag to the top of the massive hills near our house and ride down at speeds that seemed to rival any carnival ride.
I took a hack-saw and sawed the ends off of aluminum arrows to create blow-dart guns with my mom's sewing needles.
My friends and I put together a "zip line" with an old rusty cable, some fence posts, and some bicycle handlebars.
The zip-line started on a cliff, and ended on the other side of a huge irrigation ditch. We bet our friend Matt a dollar that he wouldn't be the first to try it...He tried it...It almost worked.
Luckily he landed in the water, not on the road next to the water when the zip-line snapped.
The point here is not that we should let our kids do wildly dangerous things. (I think we have to strike a happy medium between risk and reward.) The point is that it's good for us to do REAL things. In fact, I believe we LONG to do real things.
We need challenges, we need risk, we need obstacles to overcome.
It's why things like Tough Mudder (obstacle course races) have become so popular. It's why CrossFit is thriving. It's why you can challenge any 3 adult men to hit a target with a rock, and watch them throw stone after stone at the same telephone pole in the distance for the next 45 minutes.
I've begun to realize that the more we do REAL things, the healthier we are.
The more we eat REAL food that hasn't been altered with chemicals or processes, the healthier our bodies are.
In exercise, the more we do things like humans do things (and take machines out of the equation), the more effective it is for us.
In Japan they have a practice called "forest bathing." Basically it's just walking around in the woods. This practice lowers blood pressure, reduces stress levels, increases immunity, and gives its practitioners an over-all feeling of well being.
On the other side of things, a recent study showed that the more time we spend on social media, that sadder we get.
(We now pause to recognize how ironic it is that you're reading this article on a screen).
Don't get me wrong here, I'm the chief offender in terms of staring at screens.
I go through waves of being a total phone junky. It will creep its way into my hands while I'm having dinner with a friend. I will find myself endlessly checking email, and researching random statistics for work. It will consume me if I'm not absolutely vigilant.
Yesterday my toddler was throwing a fit. He was crying and flopping all over his siblings on the couch while the rest of us mindlessly watched old episodes of "I Love Lucy" on the Hallmark Channel.
I finally scooped him up and went for a (phone-free) walk with him. He tried to catch a cat. I let him climb in the back of a truck. We saw some deer on the hill near our house. I kept him from getting into some cactus, I made sure he didn't fall out of the back of the truck, but mostly, I let him do whatever he wanted.
I think our walk was more therapeutic for me than it was for him.
I hope you'll join me in creating more space for REAL things in your life.
Let's walk, run, jump, and lift things. Let's build fires, skip rocks, and be in nature without an agenda. Let's do a "reality check" and make sure we're not letting technology rob us of having a REAL life.
I realize we don't all have access to wilderness areas or places we can (legally) light fires, but wherever you're at, start with what you can do, even if it's just setting your phone down long enough to decorate Easter eggs in your kitchen, or wrestle with your kids in the basement.
Have a REALLY wonderful day!
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Back to the irony. We realize we sell jump ropes over screens all day, every day, but our hope is that purchasing one of our jump ropes will lead you into all sorts of fun fitness challenges. So, while ordering may be virtual, what you'll get out of the process will be REAL!
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