Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wildlife Garden Design Also Child Friendly.

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.


Blogger David in Greensboro, NC said...

That is a wonderful book, Gloria. When I was little-like 8 or 10--I'd go out and play in the woods behind my house from the time I got home from school until dark, totally out of sight of adults. People my age (38) are astonished and say there's no way they'd let their kids do that, and yet most of their kids have computers with internet access in their rooms. Now really, which one is really safer?

27/8/07 9:30 PM  
Blogger firefly said...

We often joke about 'Generation Helmet' -- we grew up in an age when no one wore seat belts, bike helmets, knee pads, etc. We were frequently kicked out of the house to play in summer. My brother and I used to climb trees and sit on branches to read library books and when we moved to rural Maine I often walked in the woods alone or with the dogs.

Yet my parents were very concerned for our safety and always stressed thinking and common sense. We were taught the proper way to light matches, handle scissors and needles, whittle with a knife, chop with an axe, cut vegetables, and my dad would keep us around to "help" when he worked on the house or car. The whole emphasis was on learning how to do things for ourselves.

I've been thinking of this theme often lately, because I've heard that the skill of "tool use," the kind of knowledge about how best to hold and use tools that is passed along person-to-person, is declining. I think one of the best things parents can do for kids is to integrate them into daily activities, teach them to think and do rather than just "keep them safe."

28/8/07 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read that book too and posted about it on my blog. I decided to build a tree house for my kids because of it.

28/8/07 9:53 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

David,parents today are certainly more vigilant, maybe rightly so,I'm not sure. I think we evaluate risk differently for our children than our parents did.
Can you imagine not allowing a child to ride in a car with a friends parents or keeping them off planes.We have the knowledge that lets us make these choices even though there is always some risk.
It is the same with a computer. We feel more in control even if that is not always true.
I'm not sure when or how we became so afraid. But it is not just fear.
Many new subdivisions include a natural area but children are not allowed to play freely there. Adults are always too concerned about it getting messy or looking ragged. Or that the kids will disturb the wildlife and wildflowers. Most nature centers will not even allow children to take leaves for a school project.I think that is insane.I understand the reasoning but disagree. If there are too many children allow for more natural space, places where the children are welcome to do more than look.

Firefly, I grew up in the city near Lake Michigan. Often we would bike for miles up and down the beaches and parks. I once took the bike down a steep hill that many area children rode down but the front tire hit a rock and twisted sending me flying. Nothing broken just scrapped and bruised. I learned a lesson the hard way and I did try again. I'm sure if my parents had been there I would not have been allowed to try again.
Free time is important.When the grandchildren visit
I have learned to listen when the Mr says let them be. It is hard to let them take risks and learn for themselves but hopefully I am learning.

My Chicago Garden, lots of people reading this book. I saw the pictures of the tree house. Nice job. Good luck with the neighbors. Sometimes getting to know them helps.Even if they still disagree they might be more tolerant.

29/8/07 12:58 PM  

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