[Last] Saturday [was] the fourth annual “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day.”
The idea is that at around 10 a.m. parents take their kids to—as you might expect from the name of this holiday—their local park. And then they leave them there.
…Start a game of tag. Or basketball. Or fairies versus witches. And suddenly, those bored kids who were desperate to go home don’t want to go home at all. They want to KEEP playing— with any luck, for the rest of their childhoods.
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.”
Do you know how many kids play outside on their own these days? One study I read said that in a typical week, the number is down to six percent. That’s kids ages nine to 13—the sweet spot for goofing around and, incidentally, becoming independent. But instead of exercising their bodies and minds and ability to organize ANYTHING on their own, including a couple hours of free time, most kids are either supervised in leagues or stuck inside, usually with a screen.
i’m worried about kids not being able to walk around in cities by themselves (when they’re about middle school age). it’s even more impossible for kids whose parents decided to buy a house in the suburbs. they rarely get to see anything different or simulating, explore new things.
one of my childhood friends moved from berkeley (walkable gridded streets) to fremont (suburbs with cul-de-sac) in the 4th grade. now anywhere she drives she has to use the GPS.
i think growing up in the suburbs seriously f—ks up one’s mental mapping capability and sense of direction. (maybe there are already studies on this?) but that can be remedied by living somewhere else for a significant amount of time.