Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Train Up Tuesday: The Great Outdoors + Springtime = Great Opportunities for Family Building!

So, there are a couple of things that have inspired this week’s TUT entry: 1. My family recently returned from a trip to one of my favorite places; 2. Tedd Tripp of Shepherding a Child’s Heart encourages family activities rather than individualized special-skill developmental activities to promote family unity.

It’s so funny with me; with each changing season, perhaps it’s the anticipation, but I’m usually more excited about the season I’m entering that the one I’m leaving. Such is the case with SPRING!!!...maybe more so this year because we’ve had more than our normal share of wintry weather.

Recently, my family of four took a trip to San Diego (I just love that area!). It was a first plane trip for our youngest guy (not quite 2 years old...and next week, I’ll talk about occupying kiddos on trips!). Even though such a trip can seem overwhelming with little ones, I think it is something that one should embrace. The experience can be very rewarding! A change of scenery, new experiences, different opportunities - all those things are wonderful for little growing minds (not to mention for their parents). Trips like these also provide great moments to see different sides of each family member and see what they are capable of (for instance, my 4 1/2 year old seemed like a frequent flyer with how well he handled the traveling) and to learn more about what each person enjoys about different places.

Besides traveling great distances via air or road trips, families have so many possibilities (especially in the warmer weather) to participate in fun family activities. Maybe it’s bike riding, sailing, fishing, cloud watching, visiting various parks, star gazing, hiking, camping, surfing. We could go on and on. Every family should find a favorite activity that they “own”, to encourage each other, to grow with each other, to learn from each other, and to build upon each other into a strong family. I have a couple of suggestions that I’d like to share with you.

Have you heard of Letterboxing? It is the treasure hunt that involves solving clues and exploration to find a package in the great outdoors. “Teams” (often families) find clues online. Sometimes they are cryptic, but other times they are plain and simple. The tracker hunts for a box that at least contains a log book and a stamp. The “team” stamps their own personal log book and then records their find in the letterbox book along with their own personal stamp (which maybe a store bought or handmade stamp). I understand it can be quite simple - see the video below of the sweet young girl making such a finding:

You can find out much more information about Letterboxing here. You may be surprised that you don’t have to even journey too far from home to do this activity!

Similar to Letterboxing is Geocaching; though, don’t tell fans of either, because I’m sure they are “completely different!”. ;-) With Geocaching, however, clues are based on coordinates plugged into a GPS. Also, rather than stamps, trackers locate a container holding a small “prize” or token (replacing it with one of equal worth). It seems to be a little more difficult to find the container than with Letterboxing since the clues with Geocaching leads you to an area rather than a specific hiding spot. See more info here and then watch this video:

The great thing about either of these treasure hunts is that it is something free you could do on almost any trip! Personally, I would consider Letterboxing with smaller children and Geocaching perhaps as they get a little older (although I’m sure that families of any demographic participate in each). Think of the stories that your family could have on your little exploration adventures....even if you don’t find the hidden prize (as seen here).

Isn’t that precious! But indeed, you can probably attest to the fact that many times our most memorable stories and learning opportunities come when things don’t go quite as planned.

Even if you don’t go to quite these lengths to find real, solid family time, simple hikes through your own back woods or a nearby park or someplace close that you’ve never explored together can provide some great bonding times.

So what are your family’s favorite building activities? Have any of you tried Letterboxing or Geocaching? What are your thoughts and stories?

Enjoy the sunshine (I sure am!),


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