Driving through the neighborhood, it seems that yards are empty and streets are quiet. As I head out to run errands, I am reminded that children do not play outside as they did years ago. I don't see kids riding bikes off in a myriad of directions, or wondering at the spray of a water hose, or lying in the grass and finding shapes in the clouds. It seems like children play indoors more than they used to. With screens in their hands, in their rooms, on their desks, throughout their homes, children spend time plugged in and looking down rather than running around. Plus, our schedules have become busier, such that children struggle to find time for unstructured play—to run for the sake of running, to yell and laugh and jump and climb for the sheer joy of the action and not out of a driven purpose. Yes, times have changed. And children are changing too.
Fresh air, sunshine, and exercise are good for the body. Childhood obesity is a national concern and active playtime is part of the answer. Our best source of Vitamin D, which strengthens immune systems and helps fight disease, is the sun--and only 10 minutes of sunlight per day gives us more than our bodies can use! Parents worry, plan healthy meals, and try to make their kids exercise when many of their health concerns can be alleviated through regular outdoor play.
Parents fearing for the safety of their children sometimes opt to keep them close. This hovering can cause children to be uncertain of their own capabilities. Many children do not have a comfort level outdoors. Because they do not interact with nature on a regular basis, they are unsure about climbing a tree, catching a frog, jumping in the mud. The wildness of it feels more like an episode of River Monsters and less like a scene from Little House on the Prairie. It is unknown, unexplored, uncertain. As children grow in their ability to master new situations, confidence grows.
If we read through the beginning of Genesis, we find that God rejoiced in the wonder of his creation. He was excited for people to subdue the earth, to revel in it, to eat of it and to live freely and confidently in it. God’s creativity and thoughtfulness shine through the details around us. Psalm 19:1 says, " The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." When we walk through creation, we catch a glimpse of God's mind, of his dreams. We see what God himself thinks is good. Living into the direction he gave us, surrounded by his creation, can bring us closer to him.
Imagine sitting down with your children for dinner and asking them about their time outside. Imagine the ways they would be able to reflect, not only on the fun and exercise they enjoyed, but on the many ways they saw God’s work around them and got to participate in his world.
It is time to do more than open the windows. It is time to venture back outside to play in creation again!