Interesting article at the L.A. Times titled Remember ‘go outside and play?’:
Reader, if you’re much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called “going out to play”?
For younger readers, I’ll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house—as long as they were over age 4 or so—went to the door, opened it, and … went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they “played.”
Thirty years ago I was 11 years-old and I played outside quite a bit. Despite growing up in Pontiac our neighborhood had a touch of suburbia to it and the house I grew up in was right next to a vacant corner lot owned by the family that lived on the lot behind it. We called it The Field and it had three rows of trees down it with a big dirt ring encircling them from where countless kids had ridden bicycles, go-karts, and minibikes around and around. Stepping out the back (actually side) door of our house and walking across the driveway was all it took to escape to a world of imagination. For being a big lot with a bunch of trees in it we found plenty to do there. Neighborhood baseball games, games of tag, riding bikes, playing in the rain, losing our “action figures” in the grass, playing with the family dog, and so on. I once asked the man who owned it why he never developed it and he told me he left it empty so us kids and his own kids, he had a son and daughter himself, would have a place to play. Go to the neighborhood today and you’ll find that the lot has been sold and two newer homes crammed into it. A discovery that both surprised and saddened me. There’s a whole bunch of us who had years of play time invested in that empty lot and it’s sad to think that it won’t be available to future generations. There aren’t any parks close at hand to that neighborhood, but I suppose it doesn’t matter as most kids don’t play outside anymore.
Above and beyond The Field, I can remember having a pretty free run of the neighborhood even at a young age. I had friends who lived down the street or one street over and I used to go over to their houses to play regularly. I can recall walking to Alcott Elementary school every day as well starting in first grade, a distance of at least a couple of miles (uphill, both ways). I can recall being very envious of the kids who got to ride on a school bus once the January winds started in full force. As I grew older the distance I was allowed to traverse grew considerably. By the time I was in high school I was regularly biking to friend’s houses that were several miles away. One of my girlfriends lived a good 20 minute bike ride away and I used to ride the bike over to the Pontiac Mall (Summit Place Mall today) which took over an hour even with shortcuts. Once some of us got our licenses we’d get together all the time to hang out.
In comparison after Courtney came to live with me she stayed a lot closer to home. Part of that may be the fact that, unlike myself, she’s always had access to the Internet and thusly could keep in contact with her friends without having to pick up a phone and go physically hang out with them. She didn’t have anywhere near as regimented life as some kids do today, but she also didn’t go outside as much as I did as a kid. Not that we didn’t try to encourage her to go out more and hang out with friends. Now at 18 she’s just starting to hang out with her friends and go places with a frequency that’s somewhat similar to what I used to do at 16. We didn’t plan it that way, that’s just how it sort of went. Of course I had the advantage of living in the same house for most of the first two decades of my life whereas Courtney with both parents has had more homes already than I’ve had in my entire life. The six years we lived in Canton was the longest stretch she’s had in one place. I sometimes feel bad that she didn’t get to have the sort of childhood I did.
Hat tip to Fallacio.us for the link.