Sunday, March 04, 2007

Leave No Child Inside

I've been thinking a lot about how to make sure my kid spends time rolling around in the dirt, since I'm living in an overpopulated concrete city. I just read the following quote in an article by Richard Louv in Orion:

Even without corroborating evidence or institutional help, many parents notice significant changes in their children’s stress levels and hyperactivity when they spend time outside. “My son is still on Ritalin, but he’s so much calmer in the outdoors that we’re seriously considering moving to the mountains,” one mother tells me. Could it simply be that he needs more physical activity? “No, he gets that, in sports,” she says. Similarly, the back page of an October issue of San Francisco magazine displays a vivid photograph of a small boy, eyes wide with excitement and joy, leaping and running on a great expanse of California beach, storm clouds and towering waves behind him. A short article explains that the boy was hyperactive, he had been kicked out of his school, and his parents had not known what to do with him—but they had observed how nature engaged and soothed him. So for years they took their son to beaches, forests, dunes, and rivers to let nature do its work.

The photograph was taken in 1907. The boy was Ansel Adams.

Did you grow up when and where it was normal to play outside? Where was your secret or special spot? I had woods behind my house and a river that snaked through them that I spent time by. There was a big dead tree I would knock on as I went down to the water, and typically a flicker would stick its head out and look at me. Beside my house were rocks blown out of the way for the foundation, piled as high as the garage that I played on. Behind the neighbor's house in the woods the boulders were piled so that they made small caves. I wove basket like forts and made secret paths through cat briars. Down the street there was a pond with a second entrance no one used. If you sat on the concrete slab near a run off pipe (I hope it wasn't sewage) there was a big vine of Concord grapes. I had many spots, but these were those most frequented in my daily travels. Where were yours?

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At 5:02 PM, Blogger shananan said...

I grew up in Brooklyn, one block from Prospect Park. I had favorite trees I climbed, rode my bike there and had a vegetable garden in the Botanic Gardens. My parents were broke, but took us to the beach a lot. On my block we kids played street games until it was too dark to see, and often after that. We were all covered in dirt and no one was on Ritalin. All my best memories are in the ocean or up a tree.


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