Reading 'Last Child In The Woods' by Richard Louv has been a real eye opener. While I have understood for a long time that this current generation of children are detached from nature, it never dawned on me that it is our fault. Not Television or computers or video games, but parents and adults that supervise children. We are so often either afraid for our children or annoyed by their ideas of outdoor play. Kids make noise and are so messy.
Example... it is raining,hard. The wind is blowing. Thunder and lightning abound. Your child wants to run out into it, get wet, feel the wind, watch the sky light up. Would you let them?
Would you let them it there were no lightning?
Still skeptical? If you have a large tree in your yard that has grown with several, rather than one, leader trunk and it makes a perfect place in the center about four feet up for a child to sit and other children may join by sitting higher on slightly leaning but very strong branches would you let them play there?
Have you ever even thought about an area where kids can dig a hole? Can they take the rocks or fallen sticks in the yard to stack into walls or play campsites? Do they get to leave action figures set up for another day of play, projecting scenarios into the future? What happens if they use the hose to make a mud puddle? If you have a pond is there a place for a child (or adult) to dangle feet in cool water and watch the dragonflies ?
Play for children often involves sensation. They like touching stuff, using what they find to build something , hiding,running,chasing. Throwing, hitting or catching a ball is only one way to play.
Paths through tall plantings and open areas surrounded by shrubs or tall grass, hidden somewhat from the house and neighbors make excellent spots for young ones to use their imagination to play. Thick logs lining a bed or path will be walked precariously, developing balance. Places to explore need not be expansive just slightly out of sight. Children like to find a space to make into their own rather than one designated by adults. Where in the average yard are they allowed to do this?
Our fears for our children while often exaggerated have to be dealt with. But not at the expense of their independence or creative ideas. Strong, thinking children are safer because they have developed the personal tools needed in difficult situations which may arise dispite all our precautions.
Landscape designers, school officials,political leaders and parents are capable of figuring out a way to design areas that take these new ideas into account. The movement to protect land and wildlife must also include our children.