Summer is a great time to get children involved in outdoor activities. When our children were young, our favorite family vacations were spent in northern Wisconsin. Each summer, we gathered our own four kids and a group of carefully chosen friends and headed north to play. Our plans included swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, game playing, bonfires — just about any kind of unstructured family fun. When we started the Wisconsin cabin tradition, our first cabins were pretty rustic, with few perks beyond running water. Over the years, the cabins have included a few more luxuries. I was determined to keep the focus on interactive play, so the first thing I did when we arrived was unplug the television and bury it in a closet. Initially, the kids were confused, but quickly caught on and took great pride in their ability to go without.
When it was time to head back home to suburbia, without boats, lakes and an abundance of outdoor options, the play changed. The kids missed the endless opportunities the lake setting had provided and the television seemed to know it. It called to them, tempting them to watch life, rather than create it. But they had felt the joy of adventure and imagination, and wanted to keep the play, structured and unstructured, happening. They attended summer camps, sports camps, participated in a local theater group, music and art programs. Our neighborhood was full kids with plenty of imagination, and we delighted at all the unstructured ways they found to play, create and do. There were the occasional television shows and movies, but the best fun they had was being engaged in creating their own adventures.