Source: Sherman Publications

Keiser's Role: Outside play and imagination lost on next gen

by Trevor Keiser

July 03, 2013

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

Growing up in the Keiser household summer time wasn’t a time to be lazy.

I remember hearing a knock on my door between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.and my mom’s voice telling me it was “Time to get up, get my chores done and get my butt outside.”

Those were the words I would hear every Saturday and summer day until I got my first job at 14-years-old and summer became the goal to make money, which leads me to that I know way too many teenagers not working summer jobs, but that’s another column in itself.

So, as I was saying, I can remember in my elementary years spending the entire day playing baskeball, soccer, baseball, and roller hockey with my neighborhood pals. If none of my friends could play, then I would be left to play with the greatest tool I had – my imagination.

That’s right! With my imagination I could transform my swing set into an F-16 fighter jet all because I put on my leather “Flyer’s Jacket” and pretended to be dodging flying missiles until I was hit and had to abort the mission and jump out of my swing at the highest point and tumble to the ground to avoid a fiery death.

With my imagination I could transform the woods across the street into a heated war zone all because I put on my United States Army uniform and pretended to be a highly trained soldier like Chuck Norris in Delta Force or Sylvester Stallone in Rambo.

I could also put on my University of Michigan hoody and sweat pants along with my Detroit Lions helmet (I didn’t have a Michigan one) and transform my backyard into “The Big House” and beat the snot out of Ohio State while playing every position on the team.

These are just a few examples of my childhood imagination, but when I think back to those days on the swing-set, the woods and the backyard, I smile. Why? Because I was soaking up Vitamin D sunshine rays, “getting my heart up a wire” running back and forth in the backyard and through the woods and not relying on anybody or anything to entertain me except for what I could create in my own mind.

Outside play and imagination are things that I believe are lost on kids today. Too many kids spend their summer days and weekends watching TV, playing videogames or surfing the internet. They rely on something else to entertain them and keep their focus. Technology to some degree has crippled both body and mind. Have you ever tried to talk to a kid with a cell phone or tablet in their hands and realize their ability to listen, pay attention and have a true communicative conversation is lost?

That’s not to say that as a kid I didn’t enjoy TV or playing all night videogames with friends (at their house because I didn’t own any until I was a teenager) because I very much did. But I am thankful my parents stressed the importance of me being a kid who was active physically, interactive socially and engaged mentally. I also knew that summer wasn’t a complete “vacation.”

Just imagine what our future will be like if the leaders of tomorrow have lost their ability to be free-thinkers and creative-thinkers with innovative minds to create something new. I imagine we won’t make it very far.

I think parents need to get back to limiting the technology time and kicking some butts outside for exercise and imaginative play. I know as a father, I refuse to let my kid lose the art of going outside and discovering a whole new world with his mind’s eye. I can’t wait until Konner (who is almost eight months old) reaches that age that I can go out and play with him. With our imaginations we can . . .