When I was a high strung kid, I used to play at the park all day long in the summer months and even in the winter. There was always something to do there. If it was hopping on the swings, using the monkey bars, the slide, or just running in the grass from end to end and/or just rolling in the sandbox, chasing some kid down the block, or shooting some rats by the junkyard; that was an exciting day. Playing is that powerful. It’s addictive. It’s what children have done since the beginning of time…till about a generation ago, when we decided, as a country, that letting kids go outside on their own is just “too dangerous.”
So, whatever happened to ‘go outside and play’? Out of fear, our neighborhoods, once the classic microcosm of a free America, have devolved into little more than supervised “dorms.”
One reason for this lock down is that parents today are so damn screwy, scared of predators. They believe, or so—that if Saturday is “announced” as kids-outside day, predators will celebrate by circling the parks in white, window-less vans. Play is good for the brain—it makes kids into problem solvers. Play is good for the body—it makes kids less obese. Exposure to dirt builds the immune system. And don’t obsess about accidents: More kids go to the hospital from falling out of bed than trees.
I fell out of many trees as a ‘wild child.’ Climbing trees and falling out of them is all part of growing up. I remember, we had two chestnut trees in front of our house and I used to climb into the attic window to get to my bedroom. That way I didn’t have to go into the main part of the house and have to take off my shoes, wash my hands, face and hair with boraxo (and/or) have to hop in the tub to take a bath with ivory soap.
I started developing creativity and imagination at an early age. Do children today use their imaginations as much as we did when we were kids? Do you see kids spinning incredible tales and stories in their make-believe play like we used to when we played “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians”? As a child’s figment play, I used to do a lot of repetitive movements like karate chops, wrestling spins, finger shooting and moves that have no story to them? I was a smart, spazzy kid who had a weird sense of humor. We as kids back in my day, frequently got caught up in the rough-and-tumble play of good guys and bad guys – with many of their plots influence. And a lot of it had to do with our surroundings.
I remember back in the old days, playing pickup games, with no parent around over coaching and killing the fun, is how us kids developed passion and instincts for sports.
For some time now, I have been asking myself the same question as I pass by lonely playgrounds, empty yards and deserted ball fields, “where have all the children gone?” When I was young, it would have taken an incredible force to keep the neighborhood children indoors. I know this makes me sound like an old fogy preaching about the old days, but I am serious. Have you ever taken the time to think about what happened? I am sure I’m not the only old geezer plus something who used to explore in the woods, play hide and seek, engage in pick-up games, and ultimately be dragged back into the house when it was finally too dark out.