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Playing Outside

Ann Althouse has a post about a byegone day.

I didn't like playing outside that much myself--I'd always rather stay inside and read a book, but I did have a good time, generally, when I did.

We overtoy our kids. At the risk of sounding like a codger, or worse, Grandpa Simpson ("Let me tell you how it was in my day, sonny"), we used to go over to my grandmother and grandfather's house to visit. In the basement he had taken a steel rod, bent a handle at one end, and on the other, put a wagon wheel (a children's wagon, not a Conestoga). He made two of them. One would grip the handle end, and push it up and down the driveway, sidewalk and street, often at high speeds. One would also attempt to do it on the softer lawn, but this was a rapid education in physics.

We used to fight over them. One of them, for reasons long forgotten, was considered superior. We had a great time. And turned out all right, I think, comments from the anonymous loons here notwithstanding.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 20, 2007 03:56 PM
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A few years ago I went back to my old neighborhood and went down in the woods where we all used to play a lot. All of the trails were gone, no forts, no sign of human activity at all.

I blame the culture that makes it where kids can't be unsupervised outside for a second due to the boogyman (child predators).

We used to go for miles out in the woods, across beaver damns, around old and even working coal mines, many times with a rifle or shotgun.

Posted by Dennis Ray Wingo at May 20, 2007 05:27 PM

A few minutes ago I noticed that the interior lights were on in the car. Sure enough, it had been broken into, with the driver's door lock damaged.

This is our punishment for catching an 11-year-old breaking into the car a couple days ago and holding him for police. We weren't able to catch the other two kids who were with him.

The kid had a big huge flat screwdriver with him. He freely admitted to police that he was using it to break into cars, and he'd been caught before. Because he's under 13, all the police can do is turn him over to his parents - knowing full well that he'll be doing it again within hours.

We know who the kid is and where he lives, and there's nothing we can do about it. As he's a "Young Offender", we can't even give out his name. We now know that he bragged about getting a ride in a police car, as predicted.

This is not unusual in Winnipeg. Not at all.

On that kid's street, saturday of last week, kids set fires in a vacant house. The next day they set fire to a garage, which destroyed three garages and two houses, with heat damage (all the siding melted away) to two more houses. The kids were caught and will attend - if they show up - some kind of anti-firebug classes. The following saturday, yesterday, another house on the same street burned and kids were caught. No word on whether our thief was one of them.

A few years ago one kid was holding up 7-11s on a weekly basis in addition to other crimes. The police commented that all they could do was wait until he was 13. He eventually did, stabbed someone in a carnival ride line-up, and got a light sentence.

Lest anyone thinks that I'm making this up, I can supply news links for the fires, the police report number for last week's attempted break-in, and tomorrow, the police report for today's break-in.

If the kids near you are staying indoors, you might want to consider that a good thing.

Posted by Roger Strong at May 21, 2007 01:53 AM

At age 5, I was climbing tall trees on my own. By age 11, my best friend and I were riding some pretty strong rapids on inner tubes. When I was 13, a friend and I rode our bikes 60 miles to go camping and fishing. The year I turned 15, I spent 52 days camping and hiking - most without adult supervision. We once mapped out a route that was 80-100 miles long around the perimeter of our hometown (some degree of uncertainty due to guesstimates about our final route through certain forests. We packed our backpacks and set out on a planned one week camping trip. On our third day, we just decided to keep going. We walked over 60 miles that day. A month later, we decided to see how fast we could repeat the same route with minimal equipment. We did it in 18 hours. Those were great times.

Posted by Larry J at May 21, 2007 06:43 AM

I'm starting to teach my daughters to drive. A few years ago, we sold their bicycles, because they never rode them. There was no safe place to go. Within a half mile, all cross streets are 40 mph or greater, with traffic stops few and far between. There is a serious accident requiring life flight about once a month with a mile radius of the house, and that's accidents involving motorized vehicles alone. Conversly, when I was a kid, I rode my bike 15 miles away or more for afternoon fun.

I'm with Dennis, the culture and environment has indeed changed. Too many drive on the roads with permits they should never have (or without a permit and fear of jail time). Though I think Texas law is a little more strict on juveniles than Winnipeg, I'm not sure how many juveniles believe that. When my daughters started HS, there were routine reports of theft of equipment valued well over a thousand dollars, but these were handled without a virtual or literal slap on the wrist.

That said, my daughters do get time outside. They are highly active in outdoor sports, and we spend weeknights and weekends attending various related activities. They are in better athletic shape than I was at their age. However, they don't have the "play" that I had as a kid. In that, they are missing the opportunity to learn via experience positive and negative things. They also learn only from direct teaching, which leaves little room for imagination. I am concerned how this will affect there overall ability to reason in the future.

Posted by Leland at May 21, 2007 08:45 AM

I grew up playing outside, but never considered myself "overtoyed." I did read a lot as a child, though ... my father's standard response to "I'm bored," was, "Have you read every book in the house yet?"

Posted by wheels at May 22, 2007 03:28 PM

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