Monday, August 4, 2008

Kids can't play anymore

As I was reading this article I started to think about how much we limit the amount of time that children can play. Kids just can't and don't go out to play as much as they did even when I was growing up and that wasn't that long ago. Now we have video games and TV for them to sit on their asses and do instead of going outside. But who can blame them when they stay inside when they are constantly told, don't do that you may hurt yourself, don't go there it is dangerous, it isn't safe for you to ride your bike out of the driveway, you need to stay right here. As a kid if i can't go anywhere, if I can't climb a tree or go to a stream and look at crawdads or ride my bike to my friends, what is the point of going outside? Sure the fresh air is good for you, but when all of the fun is taken out of playing why would you do it? We also don't show kids how to play anymore, if they are playing a sport, there are all kids of rule and the games have to be organized. They have to be playing in the soccer league or the baseball league or the whatever sports league. What happened to a whole bunch of kids getting together to play hide and seek or a big game of tag in the neighborhood? What happened to kids just playing touch football in the backyard or just throwing a football or frisbee around. I don't remember a lot of pick up games of football, but I sure remember a few.

And the whole trying to protect your kids every second of the day has just gotten out of hand. I know even at schools it has gotten to be a bit crazy. At my last job in NC, we had trees outside that were there for the kids to climb on, that was the purpose of them. We were specifically told that the kids could climb trees, now we didn't want anyone to get hurt so I along with a few other teachers would say that the kids can climb the tree, but we had to be there just to make sure stuff stayed relatively safe. I would just stand there and watch the kids climbing, with my arm out in case they fell. I am not sure I would have actually caught a child if they fell, but it would have been enough to slow them down. I also was able to make sure that there was only one child at a time in the tree and that other kids weren't shaking the tree to knock someone out of the tree. But other teachers banned the kids from ever climbing in the trees, cause they were afraid that child may break an arm. I understand the concern, but really kids need to have fun, they need to explore and use muscles that they can't use just by running around. I was amazed how many times I saw kids do amazing things like swing their whole body up on a branch or use some agility and planning to get from the top of a tree to the bottom or from one branch to another. Kids cannot learn these skills without experiencing them. I was never the type of kid who wanted to climb trees, but for those children who want to we should let them. They are gaining valuable experiences and learning to use muscles and thinking skills that they may otherwise never learn to use. And if they fall and break their arm, well that is what insurance is for and also they learn their own boundaries. If, as adults, we always set the boundaries for kids than how are they going to figure them out for themselves.

We also need to start to encourage children to have recess more too. They need these breaks in academics for a bit to re-focus and be ready for more learning. Learning can take place in all kinds of places including the outdoors and recess is a great time for kids to explore their environment. They can learn about nature and the world around them. They can learn to count the leaves or to write with sidewalk chalk. I even remember in seventh grade going outside to the nature center, sure I wasn't the most outdoorsy kind of kid, but it was still nice to get out and take a bit of a nature walk and go down to the pond or into the woods near the school. Even schools in urban environments can enjoy that kind of learning, take the kids outside to look at the trees or grass that are nearby for whatever bus or other animals are living in that area or just on a walk.

I am sorry if this was a bit rambling and did not seem to flow totally for you, but it all ties together in my own head. Kids need more fun and need to discover the world outside. How can we expect them to care about the environment if they have never been outside and looked at world around them?


Comrade Kevin said...

What you mean is everything is so micromanaged and heavily scripted by parents these days. Hardly anything happens organically, mainly because some parents see their children as an extension of themselves, rather as a fully-formed human beings with his/her own identity.

Boxer rebel said...

CK- That is exactly it. I was focusing on one element of that, outside experiences, but that is exactly the thought process.

Little Merry Sunshine said...


I totally agree with you. Everyone is so concerned about Joey's parents suing the school district when he gets grass stains on his jeans that kids aren't allowed to do anything anymore.

I'm not a teacher and I'm not a parent, but I see the kids in my neighborhood and they're not allowed to do anything. I almost never see kids outside playing. They sure never mow the lawn (we were doing that at 12 with supervision, but not kids these days). We weren't allowed in the house during the summer from approximately dawn until dusk.

I wrote about this whole overprotection of kids on my blog maybe a month or two ago in a post about closing schools on Election Day due to alleged security risks. I think that the citizenship, civics, historical and poltical lessons that children can learn by seeing voting in action are important and that the security risk is tiny.

Where does it all end?

DCup said...

Excellent post!

We are definitely micro-managing and scaring our children right out of any semblance of childhood as we knew it.

Mauigirl said...

Great post, agree completely. I recently posted some similar thoughts.

Climbing trees was my favorite thing to do outdoors!