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Are Our Children Really Having Fun?

I’ve written a couple children’s books that will probably never get published. If, by some chance they do got published, very few people are likely to buy them. Why? They promote the idea of children being allowed to roam outside, alone and unsupervised.

One of them has a six year old child roaming her neighborhood which includes a shopping area and a school. One of the people who critiqued it said she cringed at the thought of such a young child running around free.

The other book has a six year old boy exploring his neighborhood trying to find something special to tell his mother about. After the response to the previous book I haven’t submitted this one for a critique.

empty playgroundToday’s children aren’t being allowed to be children. The fear of what could happen to them keeps them indoors. If they go outside they are watched and not allowed to stray out of sight.

Have you ever driven past a playground and seen kids playing anything: on the swings or slide, baseball, football, marbles, or even kick the can – alone? By alone I mean without at least one adult nearby.

If it wasn’t for the sandlot I doubt I would ever have learned how to play baseball or football or basketball. Everyday after school, every Saturday, every Sunday afternoon, every summer day a bunch of us would ride our bikes to a park where ten or more of us would play, sometimes for seven or eight hours away from home, without an adult watching, sometimes as much as two or three miles away from home.

Of course, this is a different day and age. Supposedly there are more crazies out there preying on our children… at least that’s what the newsmedia would have us believe.

Oh, that’s right when I grew up there were fewer than a dozen news sources. Now there are hundreds. The hue and cry when a child goes missing is much greater, much more frightening. And I don’t blame parents for being wary.

However, I believe the children are the ones getting short-changed here. The percentage of children who play outside unsupervised is only six percent. The argument is that they are safer because kids are naive or unaware of the dangers that life presents. That’s true. I fell off of trees, fell off of swings, fell down while running across a street, got hit by thrown balls, sticks and even a couple rocks. I often gave directions to strangers and said hello to anyone who said hello to me. Today’s parents might say I’m lucky to be alive. I did lose a couple classmates when they did stupid things. One disobeyed his father and ran across a busy street. The other rode his bicycle down a hill too fast to stop at a red light.

Today’s children might be safer, but they are missing so much fun, so many opportunities to learn and play, to explore and challenge life and solve the problems playing with other kids can present.

They do get some of that at school or sitting at home in front of a computer. It’s not quite the same though. There are different kinds of energy – physical, mental, and emotional – that aren’t touched in the same way as they are when a child is allowed to be a child and run free. I think that’s one of the reasons obesity is such a problem: children aren’t out in the fresh air running and jumping and burning off those burgers, fries, ice-cream cones, cookies, candy bars and so on. In the end parents are protecting their fun-impoverished, fat kids.

Here’s the video that got me thinking about this: Today’s Kids Held Hostage a Fox Business Video.

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