Most kids do not play outside anymore.
Sometimes there is a larger reason why outdoor play isn't possible ... parents are fearful of the neighborhood, a family doesn't live in an environment where the outdoors are conducive to exploration (urban city apartment, extreme temperatures), or families have competing indoor activities.
Still, I believe that interaction with nature is an important part of a young persons development. It would seem that "a growing body of scientific evidence" would agree. There are certain
"strong correlations between experience in the natural world and children's ability to learn ... Stress levels, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, cognitive functioning ... are positively affected by time spent in nature."(pg.70, MArch/April Orion)
"...it is reported that greener neighborhoods are associated with slower increases in children's body mass, regardless of residential density."
So how did we get away from the neighborhood or nature-based play? I don't really know, but here are a few of the things I think diminish our outdoor play.
1. Parental fear that their child will be abducted or harmed outside and that there isn't anything on T.V. or in video games that can permanently damage a child, besides its inside and I (as the parent) can control what my kids see and hear.
2. The continuous stream of "news" that infiltrates our lives and fills us with fear about events that rarely take place, but are over-emphasized for affect.
3. Lack of real knowledge about flowers, trees, animals, faming/gardening and water ... once again the flukes are over-publicized making parents and children afraid that flowers, trees, animals, farming/gardening and water will harm them.
4. The belief that sweaty, dirty outdoor work is bad for kids and we gladly hire adults to do work around the house that teenagers in the not so distant past once took care of for the family /community.
When I was twelve years old I started to "work" for the neighborhood association watering and weeding the signs that welcomed people into Tall Oaks IV (in Edmond, Oklahoma). I rode my bike to each of these signs and got my knees dirty in the mud, gouged my fingers open on the thorns of roses, and probably complained to my parents about how hard my job was and how much I hated working, but the independence and freedom that the $100 at the end of the month gave me was worth riding my bike uphill in August.
I am sure my mom worried about my riding around the neighborhood, but somehow it was more important for me to learn responsibility, to grow in time management skills and let her alone for two hours a week that her fear was allayed.
Really I have very little "right" to discuss this topic since I am not a mother myself, but I feel the need to start these conversations in our bookstore community. I want to see the children we all love grow up to be creative, thoughtful, healthful people. Hopefully some of you have opinions about this topic too.