There is way too much Roblox being played in my house. Granted, it’s a way for the kids to play with their friends, which is why I haven’t been too strict about the screen time, but it’s still way too much time sitting in front of a screen. As I’ve told my kids many times, that’s what wintertime is for. Right now the weather is perfect and it would be a shame if we missed out on it because of a computer game, which is why I announced this morning that we were going to explore the forest in a nearby ravine.
I was a bit surprised at how quickly the kids jumped up and ran to join me. They knew these woods, because last fall they attended an afterschool outdoor school in that park, and they were eager to show me all sorts of hidden places that they had discovered with their groups. They took turns leading me all over the park, down the steep bank to the creek, across the stones, and to the “sumac path” to pick sumac (which is apparently not ripe yet.)
E, who complained that she was tired when we walked along the paved ravine path, suddenly sprinted ahead to climb and jump as soon as we stepped onto a forest trail. I watched in awe as the kids — even N, who is often the least active of my crew — climbed, balanced, hopped, and ran in ways they wouldn’t in a playground. During our ninety minutes in the forest, I came to realize a few things:
First, the phrase “familiarity breeds acceptance” is worth bearing in mind when planning activities with children. They weren’t especially eager to attend the outdoor school lat fall, but it grew on them — and so did the ravine. Today’s enthusiasm was, at least partly, because we weren’t going to just any forest, but to their forest. I’m not sure that an unfamiliar park would have been met with the same excitement.
Second, that the children love a physical challenge. To their minds, it’s always better to go the most difficult way: over the rocks instead of around them, or along a fallen log instead of on the path. While there are playgrounds for swinging and climbing, they can’t possibly match the forest for variety, difficulty, and unpredictability.
The third thing I realized was that becoming the kind of person I want to be is as easy, and as hard, as just doing what that kind of person would do. I wanted to be the kind of family who biked together for transportation; we became one when I biked the kids to school for the first time. I got to call myself a homeschooler (something I have long wanted to be) the moment I withdrew my kids from school and started educating them at home. Today I can say that I’m a parent who takes her kids to play in the woods — because I’ve gone and done it.
I don’t believe in any way that today’s romp in the forest will lead to spontaneous outdoor play and a decrease in screen time. Tomorrow the kids will be back at the computer, whining, “But I should still have time!” and I’ll go back to spouting such wisdom as, “You should have logged off when the computer gave you the two-minute shutdown warning.” At least now I can console myself with the knowledge that my kids enjoy navigating the terrain of our local woodland… if they have no screen time left. It’s a start, though. I’ll take it.