Kids playing outdoors -- or not

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Did playing outdoors as a child lead you to become interested in gardening as an adult? I raise this question after reading an article in today's Washington Post, which addresses the question of what we should do now that America has so many "indoor children" who are disconnected from nature. I was surprised to learn there is a national effort underway to promote a "green hour" for kids, to encourage unstructured outdoor playtime and help prevent nature-deficit disorder.

I know my love of nature -- and gardening -- stems directly from my experiences in childhood. It was actually fun to climb trees and go searching, barefoot, for bright orange salamanders in a nearby stream. But I realize not all kids get to grow up in a safe and beautiful rural place like I did.

This is an issue I've been thinking about for a long time: If kids today aren't spending much time outdoors, will they care about the environment when they're all grown up? If they don't have any experience with real dirt and bugs, plants, and fresh (edible!) fish pulled from clean waters, what's going to make them care about protecting these things for the future? Is this how we get people who drop thousands of dollars on outdoor rooms full of... stuff... only to realize they'd rather stay indoors so their toys don't get - gasp! - dirty? And is a "green hour" the best we can do for kids?

Read the article: Getting Lost in the Great Indoors: Many Adults Worry Nature is Disappearing from Children's Lives.


Blogger Jane O' said...

You are absolutely right. I rarely hear the sound of children's voices playing outside. I remember planting seeds with my mother before it was popular to buy annuals grown in a greenhouse. It was fun to be next to her on my knees, dropping seeds in the holes she made. The daily chore of watering them was soon forgotten, but I didn't seem to notice. I thought I did it all, and I was proud of myself.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting subject. I'm totally with you; my childhood was spent finding tadpoles in ponds and running amok in the English countryside. I am aghast at the disconnection between the urban population – adults as well as children – and the countryside. It is the root cause of so many problems in our modern world.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Colleen Vanderlinden said...

I agree with you 100%. Case in point: we just visited downtown Detroit with my nephew, who is an absolute "indoor kid." We walked along the river. Well, it's fishfly season (I think other people call them Junebugs or something...) anyway, he was terrified. My husband, brother-in-law, and I tried explaining to him that fishflies are a sign of a healthy river, they don't hurt anything, etc., etc. None of it worked. He swore he'd never go near the river again. If we're raising a generation of kids who are terrified of a few harmless flies, who would rather have the Nintendo (cool though it is...) than the beauty of a river, I think we're in trouble. He's been raised in an apartment, and neither of his parents are the outdoorsy types. I am positive it all starts at home.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Wicked Gardener said...

I kind of think it is a little over paranoid. I’m one of the video game generation (although my generation was Nintendo, not Playstation.) No one in my family gardened (at least not on purpose) and I rarely went outside without force as a kid. Some how I became garden obsessed anyway. I just blog about it. The logic that air-conditioning and DVD’s will keep a generation from gardening is like saying birth control will keep a generation from having children. For some, the need to create and watch something grow (and get a little dirty) is just too great.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Almost Vegetarian said...

Very good point. And scary, too. all the more so because, as I sit here, I am surroundede by ... silence. I rarely hear the music of kids playing outside and it is a shame. For me, and more so, for them.


4:26 PM  
Blogger Tira said...

There may be something to it-my husband and one of my friends are the only people I know of who aren't crazy about plants and gardening, within our reference group-and I am talking about a reference group of hundreds. They are also the only two who were kept mostly indoors as children, by their mothers. While the rest of us had a "normal" Caribbean childhood for our generations, spending most of our play hours outside.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also read the same article and agree. It is only by example that we can get our kids outside. If I am out in the garden, my kids seem to find me out there and end up staying outside too! Tonight we went for a bike ride and then played a spontaneous game of kickball with the neighbor kids(and adults) afterwards! It was fun!

9:19 PM  
Blogger Helene said...

First I agree with all of you.
In my childhood we were a bunch of children playing in the streets, fetching marmelade sandwitches in the neighborhood and getting hurt more than once.
Today there are less children are scared parents. Only some of them have realized it´s better for their children to get dirty. So we have in our region a forrest kindergarten, where children and their nannies are in the nature all day long.
For the elder there´s forrest olympics installed to get them in touch with nature. Perhaps there´s a wind of change coming.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Thank you, all, for contributing your own experiences and perspectives on this. It is interesting to hear that this trend is not isolated to the U.S. What's unsettling to me, too, is that the seemingling endless suburbanization of our countrysides is leaving fewer and fewer truly wild places for people -- kids AND adults -- to experience in the first place. But that's another blog post...

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, do I agree with this. The kids in this neighborhood don't spend any time outdoors at all.

I grew in rural Oklahoma, and spent all summer outside with my brother and sisters. We worked the big family garden, and did the mowing.

My Mom's flowers always impressed me, and I could hardly wait to be old enough to plant my own.

All four of us grew tbe gardeners, and my Mom is still at it!

5:32 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

I read a similar article and had the same reaction of "who will care for the environment if they don't get to know it." I played outside as a kid but I got to love gardening after I bought a house full of gardens. someone else may have grassed it all up, but I decided to flow with nature. I made the right choice.

6:09 PM  
Blogger bs said...

i'm wondering with wicked gardener. it's one of those epidemics that i think might be rather localized. we just moved last month. in our former neighborhood, there were kids in the street playing all the time. especially on our front walk. that was on a street of mostly apartments and most of the families were indian, samoan or hispanic it seemed. now we're in a much wealthier neighborhood of all houses, and i only see elderly asian couples walking or white adults jogging purposefully.

5:01 PM  

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