Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Go Outside and Play!

By Jo Floyd Lucas
How many times did you hear that command as a child? If you're anything like me, you heard it hundreds of times. As a result, my twin sister, our four brothers, and I would spend hours outside absorbed in games of Home Run Derby, Tag, H-O-R-S-E, Army, jump rope, or just running around the yard in the evening catching fireflies.

We spent hours in the back yard, climbing trees, making club houses, and playing on the swingset until we literally wore it out. Even then, the frame became the source of endless fun, leaning cut limbs from the trees against it to use as ramps, running up them as far as we could, and laughing as we fell to the ground time and again.

There was almost no grass in our backyard. We altered the terrain in it every day by driving toy cars on newly constructed roads and bridges, by digging holes for 'buried treasure,' or in the case of my brothers, using firecrackers to blow up their beloved GI Joe action figures. There was always something going on outside.

The winter was no different. We lived at the top of a hill on 112th Street, and sledding was great in either direction. Building snowmen and snow forts were usually followed by relentless snowball fights. I even remember that we once ice skated on frozen water in our back yard!

We grew up--all of us--to be smart, capable, fit, and creative people. I think this is, in large part, because we spent so much time outside having fun.

Now, I'm not trying to minimize the importance of what went on inside our house. We had all our meals together as a family, eight of us around a giant wooden table too large for the dining room. At breakfast, my father would read a daily devotional from The Bible. At dinner, he held court with a combination of jokes, questions, and debates that involved all of us. We were expected to have an opinion and know how to express it.

Our parents read to us and instilled a love of books in all six of us. If we were ever bored, we were instructed to pull out an encyclopedia and start reading (or look at the pictures if we were too young to read). Our parents also did the great service of informing all of us repeatedly that we were each capable of going to college, but that if we chose to go, we would have to pay for it on our own.

You get the picture...things were mostly good in the Floyd household growing up. But as I look back on my childhood, the sense of adventure, the competitive spirit, the imagination, the curiosity, the love of sports, and the love of nature that I so appreciate as traits in myself today came directly from those long hours of play outside.

I took the day off today from my duties as 'Granny Nanny.' It's a sweet gift to me from my wonderful son and daughter-in-law for Mother's Day. I enjoyed the day tremendously, and spent it outside, just playing, relaxing, reading and loving nature...and life. I highly recommend it.

I look forward to resuming my nanny duties with enthusiasm tomorrow. I feel refreshed, renewed, and reinvigorated. And if my little CiCi plays her cards right, I just may take her to the playground with me!

My advice to you for the day; step away from the computer and "Go outside and play!"



  1. Great advice Jo, and lots of great memories too. It was a different time, indeed.

  2. Thanks, Rick. I don't want to go back to those days entirely, but I sure would like for our kids to have a little bit more of that unstructured play time today!

    Did you see that video? I love it...and especially the little white-haired lady in the left foreground as she watches it all happen around her! :-)

  3. Wow, what a way to grow up! Beautiful. We, too, spent lots of time outside as kids, mostly (in my house) to avoid my father. But it wasn't until I was an adult, and went to spend a week at camp, that I really "got" the value of spending time outside. Now it ranks high on the list of MUST-DO's that I call my Plan to Stay Sane.

    So weird, isn't it, that even kids are overscheduled now. Sad.

  4. Yes, Reya, that connection we have to the earth and the sky and the water and the wind cannot be underrated. It's a MUST-Do in everyone's ability to stay sane, whether we know it or not.


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