published Monday, March 17th, 2014

Grand Thoughts: The absolute awesomeness of playing in the outdoors

There's nothing my grandchildren would rather do than play outside.

Forget TV, iPad or Netflix. They'd rather run through the woods, play dolls under a shade tree, kick a ball, play hide and seek, swim, play soccer, kayak, rock climb, sit on a quilt and read a book.

In today's busy world, even for children, "free" days are few and far between. With soccer, swimming, theater classes and more, my young granddaughters typically have busy schedules.

But not always.

On a recent sunny and warm Saturday, my granddaughters, 7 and 3, played in the back yard the entire day. I made a makeshift tent using a quilt, suspending it from a tall fence. It wasn't unlike the ones my mother made for me during my childhood when she draped quilts over a clothes line. The girls played in the tent for hours.

They played "dress up" using old Halloween costumes and "princess" dresses we've collected through the years (many were purchased at thrift stores and yard sales). They spent nearly an hour drawing and painting on their picnic table for an upcoming art show (we hold them several times a year for family members. The girls sell their artwork, netting around $3 each).

They had races in their pink Big Wheels.

Though I stayed nearby, entertaining my 18-month-old grandson, I was always in earshot of the girls. I loved hearing their conversations, laughter and occasional arguing.

My grandchildren are fortunate that their mother, their aunt (my other daughter) and their friends love the outdoors as well. My daughter is a runner and swimmer. She loves to hike and for many years was a whitewater raft guide. She'd rather be outside by a campfire than inside by a TV.

When my oldest granddaughter was 5, she swam (with her aunt, an open-water swimmer) with friendly sharks in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego. Both granddaughters have rock climbed, kayaked and been on stand-up paddleboards.

They love to skate, ride bikes and jump on their trampoline.

Of course, like most children today, the girls also love technology. They use my iPad and their Kindles with ease. They have many educational apps as well as challenging games.

Still, if you make them an offer of whether they'd like to go outdoors or play on a computer, they'll choose outdoors every time.

As a parent and grandparent, I'm well aware of the importance of children learning how to be computer literate. But I'm also aware of how important it is, not only for the brain, but also the body, to go outside and play.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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