Finding time to climb a tree

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My name is Sharlene Earnshaw and I am a compulsive over-scheduler. Between school, dance, tae kwon do, speech, choir, and youth group, I am constantly trying to pencil in time for my kids to go to a park and enjoy some unstructured play for a few hours. Scary thing is, most people tell me it will only get harder as my children get older. Suddenly kids are at sports practice 3 nights a week and games all weekend- and that is on top of the ridiculous amount of homework teachers send home! When are kids supposed to be kids? When do they learn to climb trees, perfect their monkey bars skills, and take time to discover all the tiny life forms in their own neighborhood?

This week Superoo Michele Whiteaker wrote a very poignant post on her blog, Fun Orange County Parks, which I think we would all benefit from reading.  If it has been a while  since your family spent a Saturday on a hike or climbing trees, maybe it is time to find a nearby trail or park and have some unstructured fun.  If your family has travel planned this fall, make sure to include some time to let your kids relax and just be kids. No video games. No cell phones. No structured activities. Just kids being kids.

When most of us moms and dads grew up, the world was a very different place. We spent our summers engaging in countless hours of imaginative play (house, bank, Little House on the Prairie, super heroes, scientist,nature explorer, etc) instead of spending all of our time in structured camps or in front of a tv, video game, or computer. Heck, my family didn’t even own a computer until I was 17!

That imaginary play is not just important because it is fun. According to a January 2009 article in Scientific American  “‘Free play’, as scientists call it, is critical for becoming socially adept, coping with stress and building cognitive skills such as problem solving.” The world we live in is stressful enough.  Imagine living in that same world without being given the opportunity to develop the skills to deal with all that life throws at us. We owe our children the opportunity to reach their full social and cognitive potential.

Trekaroo wants to help families find new places to play, hike, and explore. We already have hundreds of parks and hikes on our site which were added and reviewed by people just like you, but we are always looking for more!  You can help people in your community by adding your family’s favorite places to play to our ever growing destination database. We want Trekaroo to not only help families travel with kids but also serve as a local resource for all the fun outings in between. If everybody adds 5 activities, can you imagine what an incredible resource we could create?

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Sharlene Earnshaw is the Blog Editor for Trekaroo.

Travel with kids to: CA |CO | DC | FL | HI | IL |MA | NC | NY | OR | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA

About the author

Sharlene Earnshaw is Trekaroo’s Editor in Chief. She lives in sunny Orange County, CA, with her husband and 10-year-old son and daughter (twins!). She is a self-proclaimed National Park junkie and has the goal of visiting each and every one with her kids. When she isn't traveling to places like Norway, Peru, Disney World, and Hawaii with her family, she enjoys hiking, beach days, obsessively rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, and planning her brood's next trip.
3 Responses
  1. Rob

    Sharlene, I can’t agree with you more about finding the time to get out and play. We (4 kids) found that it was too easy for us to get wrapped up in our daily grind and we made a family decision to prioritize getting out to play. Since we’ve started we all look forward to just getting out and have noticed a change in our perspectives and demeanors. I hope more families hear your message and take your advice. Unstructured play is definitely something that everyone should squeeze in to their schedules.

  2. TravelPangs

    Sharlene, I couldn’t agree more. It’s not just our kids that need the time to feel the bark of a tree, smell the scent of flowers, or listen to baby birds chirping for their mom. It’s in the space we create in our lives to do these things that we are renewed, centered, and life falls into perspective. Thanks for the reminder to do this. I can’t wait to discover some great new places to play especially out in nature from other Trekaroo moms and dads.

  3. meb123

    I am totally into this. I too revel in seeing how much I can fit into a day!!!My husband as well, even though he does not like to admit this. Even when I am trying to be on downtime I am ‘on’. We have some places we like to go to free play. I will try to find some time to fit some info in!!!

    FYI older kids really do add a whole new dimension to your time scheduling. I have yet to figure out how to divide myself into3 so I can attend their functions!!

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