Once again thanks to Instapundit for the launch point of today’s blog. He points to an article in the Washington Post about the lack of time that modern children spend outside.

Turns out they would much rather spend it indoors, on the computer, watching TV, etc. In fact there, one study even showed “increases in sleep time, study time and reading time” amongst children. Oh, the horrors! Imagine that – they might actually spend time by themselves, doing what they want to be doing, which by the way might just include reading, sleeping, and learning. Good God.

All I could think of was the old adage that every parent has said to every child since the beginning of the modern age – “Go outside and play!” But since it’s the 21st century and every child is over-parented as it is, we now have to write big articles about it and launch a national “Leave No Child Inside” campaign.

Seems that the lack of time spent outside leads to higher rates of depression, eating disorders, and all kinds of other childhood issues. Yeah, no duh! I could’ve told you that. I have about a third of the energy of a growing child, and I get depressed if I don’t get outside for a walk or a run every day.

The most ironic part of the whole dang article though is that the National Wildlife Federation is now advocating a “green hour” for children: a mandatory hour outside for kids. (This by the way does not include time spent playing sports.)

Yes, this is exactly what we need – more structured time for our children! Great. In the era of shuttling kids back and forth between play-dates, day care, sports teams, music lessons, the school play, etc etc etc, the last thing we need is to put another time requirement on their day.

This all brings me back to an ongoing conversation with my Significant Other, which was corroborated this weekend in conversation with my brother. I don’t know what the two of us actually did as kids, but it sure as hell wasn’t play groups, day care, team sports, or any of that nonsense. And it definitely wasn’t an hour a day spent outside.

Instead, we just were. Plain and simple. We read, we gardened with our grandmother, we played make-believe, we acted like idiots and dressed badly. I guess we must have hit each other every once in a while… but not after my brother got taller than me, which was when I was oh, about nine years old.

And guess what? We turned out just fine. Neither of us is obese or particularly imbalanced emotionally; we are good, productive members of society; we can carry on a conversation and say please and thank you (that was a more recent development for some of us, i.e. the one who is not me).

But quite frankly, in this world of over-attentive parents, I am petrified to be that one terrible mom who doesn’t fill her kids’ every waking moment with activities, the one who – gasp! – lets her kids have unstructured time. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with keeping kids busy and active. It’s just that I simply don’t know how to be that kind of person, because that’s not how I grew up.

So before I start having a “green hour” for my kids, whenever they happen to come along, perhaps I will just rely on the tried and true. I will tell them, “Go outside and play!”

Or better yet, maybe I will take them there myself.

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