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The Power of Adventure

I remember playing in the yard on the side of my house one afternoon during a heavy rainstorm. My older brothers and I were catching worms and placing them on the upside-down rowboat that was stored alongside the house. We needed at least 100 worms to be complete. I tried to keep track of the ones that I particularly caught, but they kept moving around on the metal boat, so I couldn’t keep track.

digging in the mud for worms can be as exciting as leveling up on the latest video game.

My fingers searching through the mud...

The rain poured down on my face while my clothes soaked through, my fingers searching through the grass and mud for squiggly-slimy worms. Splashing through the puddles up and down the sidewalk, my bare feet connecting with the earth. The approval I gleaned from my older brothers every time I placed another worm on the old boat filled me with pride. The rainy adventure filled my little body with sheer joy. The benefits of that rain-filled, wormy playtime? Immeasurable.

Adventure does not need to be grand. It need not be expensive. It only needs to push us a bit out of our comfort zone. When we do this, our body reaps many benefits, including reduced anxiety and depression, increased cognition, decrease in stress, better sleep, increased self-esteem, and self-efficacy. Who wouldn’t want this for their child, or themselves? 

Happy hormones

As humans, we have the natural tendency to want to explore and have unique experiences because our brains are wired to reward us when we move our bodies and experience new things (Wittmann et al, 2008). We create “happy hormones” through adventure play. Endorphins work as a natural pain reliever, serotonin helps our mood, sleep, learning, and memory. Dopamine helps us to feel good, and adrenaline (in moderate doses) heightens our capacity to deal with stressful situations. 

smashing in a puddle can be more thrilling than playing online when you do it together.

Unlike the healthy effects from adventure play, screen time also activates the rewards system in our brain, but without the positive effects. With children whose brains are not fully developed, that pull of the digital screen is stronger, like a powerful magnet. It’s harder for them to pull away once they’ve started playing that video game or social media reel. Play with them! Take a walk around the block together. Watch the sunrise. Splash around in the puddles together. It’s always more fun, and likely to happen, if you do it together.  

Something different, something new, that’s all it takes!

Check out our free "I Look for Adventure" worksheet from White Ribbon Week. Help your child find adventures they love outdoors, with family or friends. There are adventures all around you! Your child can write or draw their responses.

This worksheet from White Ribbon Week helps your child recognize more adventures around them.

Michelle McKinney is an intern with White Ribbon Week

Michelle McKinney is an intern with White Ribbon Week. She is a Marriage and Families student at BYU-Idaho. Her greatest joy is found in her three beautiful daughters who inspire her and keep her laughing. She believes that through reading and writing, not only can we gain new knowledge, but we can experience new worlds and fill our minds with endless possiblities for our lives.

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