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Recreating Getting on Your Bike and Being Gone all Day

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:24pm

I was having a conversation the other day with my neighbor where we remembered our childhoods of jumping on our bikes in the morning to the sound of our mothers calling, “be back before dark”. He described his adventures with his friends and I described mine.

Both accounts included spontaneous activities, dreamed up by the clan of children involved each day and often involving the wide variety of materials available in woods, streams and vacant lots. We mourned that we couldn’t provide that same opportunity for our kids as we wandered back and forth along the strip of sidewalk between our houses following our kids as they meandered around our tiny part of neighborhood.

I am, of course not the first to bemoan this lost opportunity. A number of books on the topic including Last Child In the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder , discuss just this point, far more lyrically than I. Unfortunately there are not a lot of solutions. Those days are gone.

Our conversation though had me thinking beyond just getting kids back into nature. I think I do a reasonably good job there, though too often this means a guided walk through a nature preserve.

I started thinking about the kid clans that directed my daily pursuits in the summer. How, rather than an adult led activity in the woods, we children developed our own games, stories and occupation. Nature supplied the props – we designed how they were used.

Too often I find our children need us to be nearby, to tell them which activities to pursue, to make suggestions. I begin to understand there is something beyond just buying open-ended items with which to play. I understand that there needs to be an end to the scaffolding that I was taught to use to help children play. By that I mean making suggestions as they use materials to “get the engine of imagination going”.

So, I’m going to try to let go of scaffolding…a bit anyway. I’m going to leave kids alone to make their own play.

“Mommy’s busy” may be the words my son needs to hear as he plays with is friends, so they can create their own play.

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