In my previous posting (I Went to the Woods), I described the woods near my childhood home and its meaning to me as a source of play and pretending. My good colleague Virginia Dickie sent me a thoughtful comment: she wrote, “…it made me wonder how many kids today get that sort of opportunity for unsupervised play outside the house!”
I have thought about that, too, especially related to our granddaughters as they have been growing up. Our son John and his family live in a newer neighborhood in a municipality that borders Madison. The house they purchased when moving here from out East is on a 2/3 acre lot; the very back part of the lot is undeveloped and sort of a tangle of trees and grasses and vines. This small “wild” backyard area has provided the girls with a place for unstructured play, a sort of childhood respite from the otherwise landscaped lawns of the nearby homes.
When Carolyn was 7 or 8 years old, she and a neighborhood friend built a “hide-out” in the back corner of their lot. When we were over visiting one day, we were allowed to peek into the hiding place. I remember appreciating the fact that these children had an area of the yard that they could mess around in, where they could create a special place for themselves, and where they could enjoy some imaginative unsupervised play.
That is the kind of play that was so important to me as a child. Indeed, building on what Virginia said, how many kids today have opportunities for daily outside unsupervised and unscripted play that they structure themselves?
Something to think about.
Thank you to those of you who shared with me memories of your own childhood woods, and the “houses” you made in a carpet of pine needles or fallen leaves.