So, apparently even Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc., limited his children’s screen time.
This news, quoted first in a New York Times article last month, was affirming for some parents and a source of renewed pressure for others. I will not reveal which category describes me (but “guilt” is my middle name).
When I heard about this, I was especially pleased that our family already had a “screen-free” trek planned for the next day, reinforcing the parenting ideals of Mr. Jobs. We made our annual autumn visit to Gaver Farm in Frederick County, Md. It’s a decidedly “low-tech” attraction that my tech-obsessed children have enjoyed for years. And, in this glorious season, it is just one of many opportunities for the whole family to pull away from our devices and appreciate the great outdoors.
At Gaver Farm, the beautiful rural setting is the perfect backdrop for old fashioned fun. The activity area extends up a gentle grassy slope next to a wall of 10 foot high corn stalks and just up a hill from an orange-dotted pumpkin patch. The smell of apple cider, not to mention the homemade donuts, fills the air. These treats await for the end of a busy afternoon.
My kids zig-zagged up the hill, crisscrossing with other skipping children on their way to games and activities (generally trailed by parents who were struggling to keep up, but having just as much fun). A perennial favorite for my kids is the hand water pump that fuels rubber ducky races. My boys competed in carnival type games like the whiffle ball toss. A row of bright orange laundry baskets, bottoms removed, served as basketball hoops and enabled our whole family to take our best shots simultaneously.
Kids can grab burlap bags to sit on as they glide down their choice of three slides on the property. Huge truck tires, partially buried and well anchored in the ground, serve as climbing challenges.
Like many farms, there are goats, pigs, and bunnies to feed, along with peacocks and turkeys to admire.
My six-year-old daughter and I enjoyed a ride on the cow train, a makeshift vehicle in which old barrels have been transformed into seats and decorated like cows with names like Daisy Mae and Jelly Bean. A classic tractor pulls the herd across slightly bumpy terrain. My biggest accomplishment of the day may have been getting in and out of that low-riding seat successfully!
And there’s more: kid-sized tractors powered by bicycle pedals, bean bag toss games, mazes of a myriad of materials and sizes, swings made of old tire parts, and a popular air powered jumping “pillow.”
Best of all, my kids—one a first-grader, one a middle-schooler, and one a brand new high-schooler—all remained engaged, smiling, laughing, and moving for hours. As kids get older, family activities in which everyone can participate equally become more and more rare. So, I made sure I took a moment to soak it all in—committing the sights, sounds and feelings to memory.
Together, we navigated the huge corn maze. I must admit, the cellphones came out as we sought GPS assistance. Ultimately, however, trial and error, along with the “map” provided by Gaver (basically a drawing of the impressive maze design) worked better, and remained consistent with our low-tech adventure.
Gaver Farm is just one of dozens of seasonal attractions in Maryland, including Pick-Your-Own orchards, pumpkin patches, Halloween-themed activities and more. Click on the link below for a county-by-county list. Better yet, share your own recommendations in the comment section, and check back to get tips from other weeAdventurers.
What is your family’s favorite “low-tech” Maryland weeAdventure?