family fun

Family Fun: How to Make Recreation Easy for Long-Term Fun

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I am of the firm belief that exercise and recreation have something in common: none of us are likely to do either of them long-term if they are not fun. You can psyche yourself up all you want to go to the gym, and you can even go and enjoy it knowing you're doing something good for your body. But if the exercise itself is not fun in some way, you will not continue to do it long-term. Similarly, you can get out your dirt bikes or your boats or your swimming gear, and enjoy playing, but if it's more work to prepare and unload when the day is done, you're not likely to do it very often. We refer to this philosophy as the  "high-fun/low-work ratio."

Our family's philosophy with any exercise or recreation is that this ratio must be met for true enjoyment to be had and long-term benefits to be reaped. You might think this would be inherently obvious—no one likes to do so much work that it eclipses their play—but it is not necessarily so, at least among the other people we observe at the marinas, campsites, and recreation areas we frequent. There are always those who will spend an hour or so wiping down and polishing their boats in the marina before they can go home. And we frequently see families whose campsites are filled with everything, including the kitchen sink.

We, on the other hand, wipe down our boat's hull once or twice a summer, with a good polishing at the season's end. We pack all of our dirt biking gear in separate bags for each person, and stow it on an easily-accessible shelf in the garage so that we can easily load them up with the bikes whenever we decide to go riding. And we keep our RV loaded with everything for a decent weekend-long camping trip, except the food, changes of clothes, and teddy bears.

Does this philosophy work? I know some obsessive-compulsive people who would cringe at the way we do it because our boat is not immaculately clean. We are those obsessive-compulsive people, in fact, but recreation holds value to us not only in and of itself but also as a means of letting go of those inhibitions. This philosophy works for us, even with two young kids. We go boating two to three times a week. We go dirt bike riding almost every weekend of the year, unless the roads are impassable with snow. We go camping probably once a month, although this year that kind of activity has been curtailed by wildfires raging through Utah.

And I recommend it for others. I also believe strongly that a family that plays together, stays together. I advise you to simplify your play preparations if they are interfering with or eclipsing your play experience. While recreating with kids will always involve a good amount of work, it can be minimized so that enjoyment can be maximized.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr.

 What do you think? What's your recreation philosophy?

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