I’ve already posted once today – about the documentary “Waiting for Superman” – which is about the state of the education system in America. However, one of my points sent me off thinking about what I used to do as a kid and how I think a lot of kids are missing out on a very important part of their childhood – exploring the great outdoors.
I think part of it is a sign of the times – we live in an age where the big metropolis cities are so huge and with so many people, there simply isn’t enough green space. You also can’t trust your kid to go out on their own. School playgrounds are often blacktop and little else in some cases. Not to mention many schools now yell at kids if they go and play in the mud because they’ll make a mess. God forbid you go have fun and make a mess. What ever happened to the teachers like Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus? The teachers who said “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”
Unfortunately now there’s this huge movement to keep everything oh-so-perfectly-clean. My friends – let your kids eat dirt. Seriously. Let them get into things when they’re little. Let them roll around in the mud and the grass and get absolutely filthy. You know why? It will probably build a stronger immune system and it’s FUN!
I was lucky as a kid – I lived in a house with a pretty big yard. I could spend hours outside – I climbed the trees, I played on my swing set, climbed up my fort, helped in the garden, learned to mow the lawn when I was older, made stew with water and crab apples when I was younger…the list is endless! My sister and I would fight over the few wild strawberries and raspberries that grew in the back garden in the summer. One time I went tromping back there and got stung by a wasp – it hurt like hell. But once it had been taken care of, I was right back at it and gosh darnit I wanted my share of the berries!
On top of the large yard, we lived close to a creek with a huge forest that spans several kilometers to the river the creek feeds into. We used to go down with our parents and the dog, and as we got older we went down just with our friends. I remember being some where around middle school age and shoving my friend off a small cliff in a shopping cart. Keep in mind – this was pre-Jackass the movie too. We’d find dead fish and throw them at each other. We’d put crayfish on each other. We’d throw dirt clods and snowballs at each other depending on the season. We’d skip stones and look for arrow heads. Our school was close by too so sometimes the whole class would go hiking off down to the woods and we’d play huge games of survival or fill out a field guide of things we saw.
I remember quite a few nature related field trips as a kid – one was a big 2 or 3 day event I believe, where it was basically an outdoor learning centre. It rained both days we were there, but we were still outside, looking for stuff. We went to archeological dig sites that had stuff from Native Americans and saw recreated long houses and the like. We sat out in the sun and made our own dream catchers.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! All the other things I did – wilderness camping trips in high school where you literally shit in the woods (there’s no outhouse up that way). Canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding camp, sleeping in tents, sleeping out under the stars – the latter sometimes in the backyard! One time my friend and I slept outside on her trampoline all night. I rode my bike everywhere or I rollerbladed. I’d go to the mall by myself or down to the 7/11 to get a popsicle. I walked the dog by myself.
I think you get so much more out of life when you have the chance to go outside. With the weather getting nicer I hope I keep seeing more and more people outside. Let your kids go poke things in the dirt with sticks and do silly things. They have to learn and honestly? They’ll probably be healthier for it.