Kick ‘em Out! Be Out There Playing!

Where Did You Go? Out.

Last week my boss handed me an article written about Robert Paul Smith’s Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing., a best seller in 1957 and now reissued in response to the renewed interest in “letting kids be kids.” Smith describes a time when children played outside and had nothing but their imaginations to keep them busy. Who doesn’t remember being told, “Go out and play. Come back when the streetlights come on”? And we did, because there was nothing to do inside!

Blast off!

Remember a childhood where adults didn’t interfere with the building of boats from milk crates and space ships from cardboard boxes? Tree houses were imperfect, but they were built solely from the hands and imaginations of children. Kids figured out how to get the wood, nails and paint. They didn’t read instructions from a book or Google it online.  Today, kids are over-managed with sports, lessons, and clubs. Where is the unstructured, kid-driven playtime? Do we, as parents, know how to let kids play anymore?

Isn’t she beautiful?

I remember making mud dolls from the wet earth when we camped because there wasn’t much else to do in the rain. To me, the dolls were as good as any that could be bought. My 7-year-old imagination had the dolls wearing fancy clothing and sporting a new hairdo that would rival Barbie’s. Don’t show me the pictures from that camping trip, because that isn’t how I remember the mud dolls in my mind.  They were perfect.

“a kid needs time to lie on his back to find out whether he breathes differently when he’s thinking about it than when he’s just breathing”

Ponder this…

When left to “do nothing”, kids are creative, inventive, and contemplative. Scott notes that a kid needs time to lie on his back “to find out whether he breathes differently when he’s thinking about it than when he’s just breathing” and to wonder who her best friend would have been if her family hadn’t moved to a new town in 3rd grade. Kids need to be bored- -bored enough to contemplate nature and to make sense of the world around them.  When was the last time you told your kids to “go out and play”?

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