When my children were young we would make a “summer fun” list after the last day of school. At the start of vacation it seemed like we had so much time to fit in everything we wanted to do. By early August, as registration day crept up, there were still many things left to do.
Favorite activities like water balloon fights, campouts, cooking s’mores and outdoor movies made the list every year. Some activities were spontaneous and easy such as playing “capture the flag.” Others were a stretch and required planning, like visiting a national park. When the predictable complaint of “I’m bored” would start mid-July we would pull out the list. I don’t think we ever crossed every item off the list in a single summer, but, just like the chore list, it was fun at the end of summer to see all we had done.
The summer bucket list started as a way to brainstorm ideas to prevent boredom. Over the years I saved our lists and now they serve as a reminder of all the adventures, big and small, we had together.
Important life skills are learned when children build a fort, pick berries or fly a kite. Curiosity, creativity, beneficial risk-taking, as well as motor skills are developed with outdoor play. Psychology research shows these experiences before the age of 12 are key to the developing brain of children. These are skills that don’t always fit into a school curriculum and are best learned in the great outdoors. Fortunately most of these important childhood activities require little else besides time, a playful spirit and a willingness to get dirty.
Not everyone has a backyard where they can play in a stream, make a campfire or skip a stone. Perhaps you don’t know how to fish, track animals, or aren’t willing to hold a snake. Summer camps or day camps are a great way for children to experience outdoor fun. Stormwater Management and the Muncie Sanitary District in partnership with Muncie Parks, the City of Muncie, Red-tail Land Conservancy, MITS and the Oakwood Center are hosting the Seventh Annual Camp Prairie Creek out around Prairie Creek Reservoir, Aug. 3-7. Camp Prairie Creek is a free environmental day camp for youth going into grades 1-8. Camp runs 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Transportation support will be available from Muncie to the reservoir through MITS.
“Watching the kids play knee-deep in the river it struck me how important it is to get kids out from behind the television screens, video games, and traditional classroom settings to the outdoors to explore and experience new things where nature is your teacher” said Jason Donati, camp director. Campers will learn about being environmental stewards through recycling, water education, plant identification, interactions with live animals and more. Kids will hike in the woods, learn how to fish, and explore nature.
If you didn’t get the chance to complete an outdoor bucket list before you were 12, it isn’t too late. Run through a sprinkler, catch lightening bugs, climb a tree or camp out in the backyard this summer. Make a list and plan to do it with your children, grandchildren or neighbors. Do you like to fish, garden, or create art outdoors? Volunteer at a community center, your church, or a local organization and lend your skills to help kids grow up experiencing outdoor adventures.