No child left inside: reclaim outdoor play

Richard Louv's stirring article, "No Child Left Inside," documents a burgeoning movement to reclaim the idea of outdoor play for kids, who are increasingly under house arrest. Louv ascribes many benefits to outdoor play, beyond simple physical fitness -- the idea of a connection to the outdoor, physical world, the numinous moments of natural beauty, the psychological benefits to distracted, hyper kids. There's a lot of cause for hope -- people from all over the map are joining up, from conservative pastors ("Christians should take the lead in reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from machines") to liberal environmentalists. Even real-estate developers are getting in on the act.

Louv describes a vicious cycle of causes brought us to the world of indoor kids: irrational, overblown fear of stranger danger (see danah boyd's masterful work on this) means fewer kids play outside, means that it's easier to bulldoze outdoor play spaces, means fewer kids play outside.

Reversing the cycle won't be easy, but it's certainly worth fighting for.

Urban, suburban, and even rural parents cite a number of everyday reasons why their children spend less time in nature than they themselves did, including disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures. Most of all, parents cite fear of stranger-danger. Conditioned by round-the-clock news coverage, they believe in an epidemic of abductions by strangers, despite evidence that the number of child-snatchings (about a hundred a year) has remained roughly the same for two decades, and that the rates of violent crimes against young people have fallen to well below 1975 levels.

Yes, there are risks outside our homes. But there are also risks in raising children under virtual protective house arrest: threats to their independent judgment and value of place, to their ability to feel awe and wonder, to their sense of stewardship for the Earth–and, most immediately, threats to their psychological and physical health. The rapid increase in childhood obesity leads many health-care leaders to worry that the current generation of children may be the first since World War II to die at an earlier age than their parents. Getting kids outdoors more, riding bikes, running, swimming–and, especially, experiencing nature directly–could serve as an antidote to much of what ails the young.


(via 3 Quarks Daily)

Chris sez, "Boing Boing readers may be interested in knowing about the Pott Row First School, in Norfolk, England. Half of all classes at the school are held outside, regardless of weather. Every kid in the school is issued a one-piece waterproof jumpsuit and rubber boots, and they gleefully suit up and head outside for math and art class in the rain."

Update 2:

Uhu sez, "In Germany, there are 'Waldkindergarten,' that is, kindergardens where the children stay in the woods for the whole day. A trailer may offer shelter when it rains really bad. Friends of mine have send their son to one of these (which is in a patch of woodland in the center of Berlin), and he seems to enjoy it extremely."