Family Values - June 2009
By Elaine Stone
There he was circling the perimeter of the large green electrical box next to the church parking lot. Pulling into her spot for Sunday morning service, he caught her attention. What was he doing?
She watched him feel along the edges of the box, searching underneath. Nope, no electric company logo did he don. What should she do? Call a pastor, approach the man? The more she thought, the stranger it got. He kept circling, looking at a paper in his hand. Was he a terrorist, planting something?
Or, should she dial 911? Finally, feeling crunched for time, but knowing you would not be able to sit in church peacefully, she shouted, “Can I help you with something?” “No, I’m just looking for something?” Registering her confused look, he added, “A treasure, I think it has something to do with these numbers” pointing to numbers on the side of the box. She was more determined than ever to get to the bottom of this weirdness. “I found it,” he proclaimed, holding the magnetic numbers in his hand. He approached showing her the backside which contained a set of instructions…she had entered a new world called Geocaching.
For years now, doctors, TV ads, exercise experts have all touted the benefits of walking. It requires no equipment, it’s always available, it can be done in any location, and from youngest to oldest it is achievable. In 2007, the journal of the American Heart Association, published an updated report on physical activity and public health.
Their conclusion: "Every U.S. adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, or preferably all, days of the week." The researchers determined that intermittent as well as sustained activity can be beneficial. In other words, on days when you can't fit in a 30-minute walk, you can still garner fitness benefits by taking two or more shorter walks squeezed in throughout the day. (http://walking.about.com/od/holiday/a/familyholiday.htm, accessed April 2009) The health benefits are documented and undeniable, but there can be so much more in store for families that choose to walk. Families can build a tradition, a vacation, or a summer around it. If finances are tight and away vacations are not in this year’s budget, a little creativity and determination can still make it a summer to remember. Plus, the added ingredient of time together will build and strengthen family bonds. And, it is free!
Try a family walk each night after dinner. Get the kids in on it and let them be creative. Take turns deciding what kind of walk it will be; follow the leader, flashlight, collecting bugs, photographing flowers (give everyone a turn on the digital camera), identifying stars, catching lightening bugs, “I Spy”, at a park, downtown, in the woods, create a story (everyone adding one line to a story, till you get back home), etc. There can be a million different ways to make walking an adventure; decide to make it an adventure. Children will immediately be willing and their imaginations will be stimulated and fostered as a result. A little prep work might be needed at times or post walk analysis may take the walk far beyond the time on foot; analyzing photos, bugs, rocks, stars, etc. on the computer for identification/education. An “every-night adventure” will thrill children beyond parent’s imaginations.
For a larger family adventure/vacation, join the world of geocaching. “Simply put, geocaching is treasure hunting for the 21st century. Armed with a Global Positioning System receiver, a set of coordinates tell you the location of a cache, and a healthy sense of adventure, players go out and look for caches of goodies hidden by other geocachers. If one of the goodies in the cache strikes your fancy, you can take it--provided you leave another goodie in its place.”(http://www.brillig.com/geocaching/, accessed April 2009) It is just like an Easter egg hunt. Adults and children alike love the excitement of geocaching. There are treasures to be found in virtually every zip code in the United States. Geocaching can be done from home, in state, or out of state. Budget can determine location, but it will include some great walking experiences.
For a lower tech version, try Letterboxing. “Letterboxing is said to have started in England in 1854. Letterboxing is an intriguing “treasure hunt” style outdoor activity. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible places (like parks) and post clues to finding the box online on one of several Web sites. However, clues to finding some of the most highly-sought boxes are passed around by word of mouth. There are about 20,000 letterboxes hidden in North America alone. Individual letterboxes usually contain a log book, an often hand-carved rubber stamp and may contain an ink pad. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp on their personal log book, and leave an imprint of their personal stamp on the letterbox's logbook.” (http://www.letterboxing.org/GettingStarted/getstart_finding.html accessed April 2009) Families will have fun developing a “trail name”, creating a “family stamp”, making a log book, and acquiring stamps from the letterboxes found. Maybe by the end of summer, the family can construct and hide a Letterbox of its own. A little pre-work will need to be done for clues and finding locations, but Virginia and Fredericksburg have plenty to be discovered and all will include some walking.
Don’t let bank accounts and evening news determine the mood; discover the world. Make this summer a walk to remember. Get out of the house and take a hike; a different one every night.
Letterboxing - http://www.letterboxing.org/
Getting Started Letterboxing - http://www.letterboxing.org/GettingStarted/getstart.htm
Atlas Quest: A Letterboxing Community - http://www.atlasquest.com/
What the Heck is Geocaching? A Beginner's Guide http://factsfacts.com/geocacher.htm
How to Go Geocaching - http://www.wikihow.com/Go-Geocaching
Geocaching with Kids - http://eduscapes.com/geocaching/kids.htm
Make Walking Sticks -
Tips for a Successful Family Walking Trip - http://www.kidscantravel.com/tipstravelkids/getkidsinvolved/hikingtrips/index.html
Advantages of Walking as a Family:
Great foundation for a healthy life. Children who lead active lifestyles are likely to remain active as adults.
Those who exercise sleep better at night.
Better sleep means handling challenges more easily through the day.
Communicate more because distractions are left behind.(TV, Internet, games, phone)
Some kids open up more as they walk. The change of scenery and natural rhythm of exercise helps parents and kids relax.
Makes natural connections through shared experiences.
(http://www.enotalone.com/article/9759.html, accessed April 2009)