I am a young father of two beautiful children and I live in the city of Shakopee with my wife. I volunteer within the community as much as I can when I have the free time, and I work frequently in the recovery community in advocacy. So I know how hard it is sometimes to find any amount of time for recreation. With a busy schedule, and after-school activities aplenty, I know many of us feel like quality time with our family can sometimes be lacking.

As the sun starts to shine bright, and the days are getting longer, that feeling of cabin fever within me slowly starts to recede. I find myself looking at finally getting back to “normal life” as many young families in our surrounding area are. When the weather cooperates, I try my best to get my family and myself out of the house as much as I can, which can be quite challenging at times.

Some things simply are not meant for my 4-year-old son or newborn daughter to be a part of! It can be seemingly very difficult at times finding an activity that I can include the entire family in that won’t break the bank.

In an area like the southwest metro there is a plethora of options for me to choose from, but again finding healthy and affordable options to continually stay entertained seems to be an event in itself most days.

Most days, when I want to get everyone out for an hour or two, I would rather not fork over a wad of cash to visit Valleyfair or an indoor park. However, motivating myself to stay busy has had a very positive impact on my family and me. That stay-busy attitude has led to a good amount of ideas that not only provided an outlet for me to entertain my family, but bond as well.

An always affordable option that I feel like gets overlooked by busy young parents is simply taking our children outside! When I think back to my childhood, before electronics dominated the age we currently live in, I realize I was usually outside playing or using my imagination in one way or another.

In a suburb like Shakopee, many of us don’t have the privilege of having a big yard, but the parks all around us do. Some of the experiences I have had just taking my family to the park, just simply to run around and play, I will cherish for a lifetime. By simply bringing a few balls, and my attention, I was able to fill a couple of hours of time with good healthy fun. The little man of the house didn’t mind it much either I have to say!

From utilizing the jungle gyms (which I may add are amazing today compared to the early 90s) to taking advantage of the walking paths to connect our city, I have found the city has plenty to offer. I encourage the old concept of play as I know it, the best I can, and we create silly games or fictional situations that we can play out on the play sets.

To be able to take a walk on a well-groomed walking trail, and take in some of nature, leads to discussions and lots of questions from the little guy! Things like this sometimes are overlooked as routine, and then simply don’t happen. Going outside and setting a goal of walking to the park and back for my son is exciting, and that excitement I have found to be infectious! Enjoying the little moments seems to get lost on us sometimes, and by getting out to play, we can solve that.

Getting outside with everyone, even for a moment, we are able to connect and be present as parents. Setting a goal of getting out of the house for old-fashioned play helps everyone grow and remember that sometimes all we need is the company of those that we care about. Even for those without children, to get outside and be present can help tame our stress, and encourage us to find that inner peace we once enjoyed as children.

Breaking away from our cell phones, tablets and video games, may seem like an old fashioned idea at first, but when I do manage to break free, I actually remember what the value of life is! I encourage any young parents out there to do the same; the value of play shouldn’t be overlooked.

The relationships that we can enjoy and the experiences we can hold dear as we age cannot be gleaned by staring at a screen. Get outside and enjoy the people around you, even if it’s just for a moment.

William Donald Jensen was born and raised in in the Catskill Mountains in the small town of Liberty, N.Y., and migrated to Minnesota in the summer of 2005, graduating from Prior Lake High School in 2008. He currently works as an assistant warehouse manager and in his spare time volunteers and works helping addicts with their recovery. He is also the father of two and lives in Shakopee.

South regional editor

Deena is the regional editor for Shakopee, Jordan, Prior Lake and Savage and is passionate about uncovering the truth. Deena also enjoys gardening, playing tennis and up-cycling furniture.

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