Monday, July 20, 2009

Go Play.....Outside!!

Do kids ever play outside anymore? I've run into three things today that got me thinking about this. Kathy B! over at The World According to Me wrote about her kids playing for 3 1/2 hours with frogs which really got me reminiscing about my own childhood.

Then there was an article in the paper about social networking and how addictive it has become for some. Kind of what I was referring to in my
post about Mouse Potatoes. And then there was another article in the paper about children's unstructured play helping to develop life skills. We all read the statistics about the increase of obesity among American kids from a general lack of exercise.

I'm a City Kid or rather, I grew up in a city. I had a bicycle which I remember riding to friends' houses within a radius of maybe 6 blocks from age 8 or so. That was back in the day when you could let your kids walk city streets without being too worried about them disappearing. For me that was mainly during the school year.

After age 5 I never spent a summer in the city. We started camping when I was about 4. Our travel trailer actually came along as part of a package deal when my grandfather bought a Buick in 1960. Imagine that? He bought a car and a 16' Shasta trailer came with it, literally attached to it! Both were used but in fine shape.

My parents and I, along with my grandparents, did a few weekend camping trips and week-long vacations for a couple years until my grandfather decided that he was going to own a campground.
At age 55 he bought 75 acres of virgin woods in Connecticut and developed a campground. He didn't 'develop' it in the sense we think of today. He took a chain saw and cut the roads, and then he dug the well. My grandfather was one cool dude.

But that's another post. My point here is that I was a city kid who lived summers in the woods. From age of 5 until 16, from the afternoon that school ended until the day before school started in September, we were at Sterling Highlands Campground. I wore no shoes the whole summer (did my feet burn that first week of school!) and played with frogs, toads, salamanders; climbed trees; built campfires; swam in ponds and generally just played outside and in the woods. We were camping; there was no inside. This whole experience certainly gave me my love of the outdoors and nature. (My idea of camping now is a 40' motorhome)

But even when I was at home in the city, we still played outside. I had some friends a couple blocks away that I used to stage "circuses" with. Cartwheels, dogs on leashes, that sort of thing. We were probably 8. We sold tickets and lemonade. Really sophisticated. At least we were being creative. Don't get me wrong, I watched television, too. But it wasn't a major part of my life like it is today with most of us.

It seems today that kids don't have as many opportunities to be creative as we did then. So much of their lives is scheduled. So much is all figured out for them. Although I do remember not so many years ago when our oldest granddaugthers, Katie & Madeleine, were visiting during the summer when they still lived in Arizona, and they put on a variety show for us in the backyard. I've got the pictures to prove it

They found a big cardboard box and cut holes in it to use as a stage. We all sat around in lawn chairs and watched as they sang and danced with brooms or whatever they found in the shed. As for unstructured play developing life skills, maybe this was the beginning of Madeleine's interest in the stage. She participates in local theater and is very talented.

I suppose things aren't going to get any better soon but I just hope kids will keep catching frogs and running around outside while they still can.


Tammy Howard said...

First - your childhood sounds wonderful, and not a whole lot unlike my own. Except the grandpa building his own campground - I have nothing to compare to that. That is WAY cool!

My kids do play outside, but even at their ages (13 and 11) I have a hard time when their bike rides take them further than around the block. The younger is still pretty creative in her play, the elder much less so.

It's hard to know what to do about it - the world IS scary. And there aren't any woods or frogs or creeks here in the suburbs that they can get to without a ride. We do the best we can.


Just Breathe said...

I agree, kids don't seem to play outside anymore. I was gone all day as a kid and my parents didn't have to worry about us. I think all young mothers need to make sure they get their kids outside.
My kids also played outside allot.
When computers started coming into the homes things started to change.
Also, parents now need to know were their child is at every moment because of our crazy world.

Miss Lady Grey said...

I remember going outside to play all day during the summer months. We had a lot of kids our age on our block, and we all got together most days and made up games and things to do. It was expected that we would stay within a block radius of the house. And if we did go on our bikes to go somewhere further away, then we had to let our parents know. But, basically we would go outside, and be outside most of the day. Mom would yell when it was time for dinner. If we didn't come in then, we didn't eat. After dinner, it was just "be home before dark". How times have changed!!

Laoch of Chicago said...

I often marvel at how different parents are in this generation as compared to my own. My mother was not involved in my play activities at all. I was involved in very little structured activities which seems so different than what is going on now.

Kelley at My Island Wedding said...

wow! i was just talking to my sister today about this very topic!

when i was a child in the summer, there was no tv during the day and we went to bed at "night" while it was still light out!

My kids are 6 1/2 and 2 1/2. I try not to schedule them... but when they're "bored" they look to mom.

When I was bored (also in a city) in Massachusetts, barefoot, etc. The remedy? "FIND SOMETHING TO DO!"

Thankfully, no obesity issues or "couch potatoes"... worried though of kids that need others for constant stimulation!

Any suggestions? (love your blog, by the way...)

Shauna said...

My 12 yo loves it outside. He spends a lot of time with his grandad down at the creek behind our house. Sometimes though, he has to be pulled away from the video games!

TuTu's Bliss said...

Rest assured my mud princesses play outside :) We have "messy hour" every single day not free time MESSY GOOEY YUCKY time. This is a wonderful post to remind parents to let kids be free and have fun. Hugs, jen

kaye said...

my grandkids play outside--all the time. I have to beg them to come in :)

Pam said...

There is a lot of truth here. I think we are all too "connected" to electronic devices and "disconnected" from each other and nature. It's too bad really. My kids are definitely in the "couch potato" camp. *sigh*

Jennifer said...

I don't think a lot of kids play outside enough now. I remember playing outdoors all day when I was a child. I don't have any children but if I did it would be important to me that they spend time outdoors and learn about animals and experience things that just can't be experienced sitting in front of a computer or video game screen.


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