This I Believe: The Essence of Playing Outside

Feb 26, 2019

The sun is shining and the day holds promise and tranquility. I fumble for my shoes, slip them on, and then reach for the door. I step outside and make a running start to the backyard. 

In the backyard forest, there is a swing that hangs from a tree, a three-story tree house, and a garage roof that is low enough that you can throw a ball up and it will come rolling back down for you to catch. Beyond the yard, there are miles and miles of woodland, acres of farmland, and oodles of creatures— both real and imagined. Growing up, playing outside was one of my only forms of entertainment.

The reasons for this were that I lived out of town, I had no neighbors, and my family didn’t have more than one TV. In short, I did not watch much television. What I did have, though, was a tremendous backyard. The magic of going outside was that the world became my oyster. In the thick of the woods, I was free from limits, adult supervision and the restraints of time. I could do anything that I wanted. I could swing until I got high enough to fling myself out and fly. I could create a mural with chalk on the cement. I could invent a game with elves, fairies, kings and queens, talking animals and monsters. When the sun began to set, I sauntered back into the house and took off my shoes. I was famished from my day of adventure. I went to sleep by reading books that led my body to sleep and my imagination to wander. It is because I often played outside as a child that I am inclined to wonder, imagine and to be curious about the world as a young adult. Someday, I want to stroll on the black sand beaches of Iceland, to walk the stone stairsteps of the Great Wall of China, and to climb mountains in the Scottish highlands. Once my play place was the backyard, but it will now also be the entire world. When I played outside, I used my imagination to create my own society. I learned to be curious, decisive, and to have a strong sense of self. To this day, I still play outside. I play sports, I read, and I walk and wander outside. The feeling that I get from being outdoors is refreshingly different from the feeling that I get from watching TV or going on social media. When I’m outside, I feel relinquished from conformities, responsibilities and stress. I think that everyone should spend time outdoors and experience the liberating joy from their busy lives of the green landscapes, birdsongs  and the change of scenery. Playing outside makes for creative children and curious adults. This, I believe.

Lydia Davidsmeier reading her essay at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Lydia Davidsmeier receiving her scholarship at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise meeting.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS