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.