• Water the element of versatility
    By Linda Freeman
    CORRESPONDENT | June 16,2013
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    For his fifth birthday outing, I recently took my grandson on a ferry. I chose to take the one that leaves from Charlotte because the boat is smaller and the trip is brief. I need not have been concerned. He loved it. As he stood up on the open deck watching the ferry cut through the water, he informed me that water is one of the four elements, and then proceeded to tick off the other three.

    To a five-year old, size is irrelevant. He had some difficulty discerning the difference between fishing boats and the ferry that carried our car. And, of course, being in a car on a boat had a mystique of its own. By the time we had walked around town a bit and reloaded on another ferry, the return trip was old hat, but not so much that he didn’t talk about it endlessly that night to his brothers and sister.

    Thinking about this simple little experience, I am reminded of the fascination water holds for all of us. Children cannot resist the urge to splash through puddles whenever and wherever they are and are often transfixed by the sight of running water. Visiting the aquarium in Baltimore, everyone entering must pass floor to ceiling tubes of bubbling water. Children and adults alike can barely drag themselves away to continue their tour.

    How often have you watched with wonder a sunrise or a full moon shining on the surface of a body of water? Mesmerizing, isn’t it? For some, lakes and oceans bring peace and significance. To others, they spell fear. Water can be dangerous. The force of water can power a community, or destroy it. A lack of respect for water or attention to safety practices can result in personal hardship and loss.

    That being said, water provides a universal environment for play and exercise. By following a few common sense behaviors, water play is safe and satisfying.

    A day at the beach or on one of Vermont’s lakes or ponds offers quality family time and plenty of action.

    It has been said that everyone should learn how to swim. Swimming is arguably the best non-impact exercise there is. Gliding through the water is delightful. Utilizing full body muscles as well as lungs and cardiovascular system is health and fitness producing activity without parallel.

    A long swim trains the endurance or aerobic system while creative play of tag or racing or even splashing might ramp up the fight-or-flight anaerobic system for a few seconds. From pools to open water, swimming is a sport for practically everyone.

    When equipment enters the water scene, there is such a vast array of floatation devices or boats that it is often a challenge simply to choose. There are kayaks and standup paddleboards, canoes and rowboats, fishing boats and speedboats, cruisers and sailboats, water skis and jet skis.

    If you train or recreate on a boat, be sure that you know and follow the laws of water safety. Never forget that personal floatation devices (pfds) are required and that Vermont law enforcement enacts a zero-tolerance policy about their use.

    Backyard water play has its own merits. Easily accessible, a kiddy pool or even a lawn sprinkler can provide great fun for little ones. Again, of course, safety is a factor. Never leave a young child unattended; water even a few inches deep can cause a tragedy.

    Children make games out of anything. Give them a few containers and a bucket of water and they will entertain themselves for hours. While water parks and alpine slides can be large-scale fun, it is not necessary to make water play elaborate to spend enjoyable time alone or with those you care about.

    Simply walking in wet sand or moving arms and legs through water’s resistance creates fitness opportunity. Collecting shells at water’s edge or searching for sand crabs or sea glass at the ocean have fascinated generations.

    From fishing poles to changing tides, the lure of water is undeniable.

    Why not find ways to fit some water play into your calendar and into your budget (or lack thereof) this summer. Slather on some sunscreen, take a moment to share safety precautions and head outdoors to enjoy one of nature’s four elements.
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