Random thoughts on a Saturday

Saturday is a day when my schedule shifts. I always spend part of my Saturday focusing on worship for the following day, but I don’t keep office hours on Saturdays and I often take a longer break from my email than on my other work days. This week the Woodchucks don’t have a formal splitting party, so I won’t be working with them. The result is a little more laid back approach to my day. So for this morning’s blog, I’m going to combine several ideas that have been floating in my mind that are sort of, but not completely related to each other.

I grew up in a time when we had less awareness of safety and accident prevention than we now possess. We rode our bicycles around town without wearing helmets. Not infrequently we rode them without wearing shoes. We rode in cars without seat belts and, when I was just a bit older with a single lap belt that was shared by all back seat occupants. We went skiing with boots that didn’t provide much ankle protection and virtually no other safety equipment. There were no helmets on the ski slopes back in the day.

That was then. This is now. I believe in helmets and the protection they offer. I wear a helmet every time I ride my bicycle and I am pleased that the same standard is applied to my grandchildren.

When I think back on it, the lack of safety gear in my childhood was primarily the product of a lack of information and equipment, not a change in attitude. My father was very specific in his teachings about safety. He applied agricultural chemicals from light airplanes for 25 years, at times with as many as three additional pilots in his company, without an injury accident. I have the helmet he wore - a World War II surplus helmet with almost no side of the head protection. It is covered with dents, any one of which might have been enough of a blow to the head to cause unconsciousness, which while flying a light aircraft is usually fatal.

He taught me to fly. He was precise in his instructions about safety and accident prevention. I share his attitudes. Proper safety equipment doesn’t have to interfere with fun in work or recreation.

Once the kids have their helmets, I’m a big fan of Strider balance bikes. The pedal-free bikes are wonderful toys for children from about 18 months and up. Once a child is comfortable with standing and walking, you simply give them access to the bike. At first they stand and walk with the bike between their legs. Soon they learn to sit and walk followed by sitting and running. Along the way they learn to glide, and presto! They have mastered bicycle balance. When our grandson was four years old he made the transition from the strider bike to a pedal bike without training wheels in less than an hour and was confidently pedaling and riding without assistance on the first day he owned his new bike. His sister is now enjoying the strider.

I make no bones about having a brand preference when it comes to the bikes. The Strider company is a Rapid City company. The founder’s children attended Cinnamon Hill Preschool at our church. The company produces top quality bikes at a reasonable price. Cheap imitation bikes are usually only $10 less to purchase and for that savings you get a lot of frustration.

The seeds of our grandchildren’s joy with their bikes were planted before they could even sit up. Their parents established a pattern of taking them outdoors every day. When they were infants they were taken for walks in their strollers. As they learned to walk, they were allowed to get out of the stroller and explore the world around themselves. The routine of going outside and looking at the world resulted in them developing skills for entertaining themselves without excessive dependence upon technology.

I’ve seen babies whose parents entertain them by handing them cell phones and soon are planted in front of television sets. I’ve witnessed children who can’t put down their iPads or other devices for a moment’s conversation and bring the devices to the table at dinner time. I’m sure that there are a lot of educational programs and that not all time spent in front of a screen is harmful to children, but the lack of moderation and balance is surprising to me. Parents who are addicted to their devices seem to be at home raising children who are similarly addicted. The devices seem to encourage indoor activity.

Speaking of outdoor play, I am amazed at the play value of a simple $10 plastic sled. Plunk an adult on the sled on a modest hill and soon you have a world of giggles. Give the sled to a child and you’ll wear yourself out running up and down the hill. When the child is just a bit older, you can plant one adult at the top of the hill and another at the bottom and the child can pull the sled back up the hill. Another year or so and the child is capable of entertaining themselves with the sled. Helmets are a good accessory for sledding and there are plenty of children’s helmets with insulated liners to keep the ears warm. The helmet will cost more than the sled. Despite their fragile appearance, those plastic sleds last quite a few years. We made it through two children with only two of those sleds and now we’ve obtained our third for our grandchildren. The other two were thoroughly worn out by the time we got rid of them, but the deterioration was probably as much from sun exposure to the plastic as from the use they got and they really got used a lot.

Kids, however, don’t really need very many toys if they are given access to the outdoors. They can manufacture lots of imaginative play with things readily available in the world. Sticks and rocks and leaves and dirt are wonderful playthings. One of the great joys of my life has been standing or sitting beside a river with my children and later with my grandchildren and throwing rocks into the water.

Have fun, be safe, and get outdoors. It’s even good for people my age.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!