Healthy vision or foolishness?

Friends can't help but chuckle at me when I hop on my, "What we really need for the kids during the summer is unstructured, outdoor play," kick. I am used to their chiding by now.

So, when I heard, "You are swimming up stream with that idea," from our friend last night, I wasn't surprised ... 'til he added:

"Fish that swim upstream spawn and then die."

Ouch. Was that utter cynicism from him? Or am I a complete fool to believe in unstructured summer play as a viable option right here in the busy city?

What to do?
A wave of doubt flickered through me.
My intuition guides me that children are curious about nature and the outdoor world from birth but that it is parents' unresolved discomfort with outdoor life that curbs their wonderful enthusiasm. Much like language; it's use your nature literacy or lose it.

The benefits
A summer in nature is an essential restorative for young, school-fatigued minds. Outdoor play is physical without being labeled "fitness." Wildness is full of great material for childhood: risk, reward, imagination, boredom.

My friend
has a point ... I mean, I really don't want to burn out on this issue ... what good could come of that?

Take a hike
Deadlines for plans are fast approaching. Let me take the kids out hiking and think on it ...



  1. AnonymousMay 04, 2009

    You know, Christine, that it is not foolishness. And yet, you know that in this city, with the heat and the suburban sprawl, it is a challenge to entertain your children in nature all summer long. I have just ordered a book you may know titled "Taking Back Childhood: Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media Saturated, Violence Filled World." The author is Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor at Lesley University. You know there is much research and much has been written on the benefits of unstructured time and the benefits of nature time for kids. In many places, I believe, the research has permeated deeper into the parenting consciousness than it has in Washington, DC. Here, in my view, parents are blinded by the intense pressures for power and prestige, the intensely materialistic culture and, frankly, by the absence of opportunity at our fingertips to do things another way. And, there is also the swimming up stream pressure which ties into the fact that there are few models of how to not fully structure your kids all summer and all year.

    On the topic of bullying: I am reading a book entitled: "Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers," written by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate (Canadian doctors). The chapter titled The Making of Bullies and Victims is quite interesting. The basic premise is that "the bullying phenomenon is a direct product of the subversion of the natural heirarchy, following on the loss of adult relationships...bullying itself...is fundamentally an outcome of a failure of attachment." The theories are provocative and, I think, little understood, regarding what happens to our children when the bond at home is weak. Much of what we see in the pre-teen and early teen years (in the way of defiance towards parents and intense peer orientation) is, according to the book, precipitated by lack of guidance and support at home -- and the child need not be from a "broken" home for this to be the case.

  2. This topic covered generally in today's Salon w/ interview with author of Free Range Kids:


  3. Thank you for the very thoughtful and informed comment. You have just raised the bar and convinced me to follow my path.

  4. AnonymousMay 04, 2009

    Sounds like you need to read No Child Left Inside ... lest they come down with a nasty case of nature deficiency disorder

  5. Dr. V -
    That's a great book, thanks for mentioning it here. Relevant to our area for sure.