Yeah, I can remember going outside to play.

Interesting article at the L.A. Times titled Remember ‘go outside and play?’:

Reader, if you’re much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called “going out to play”?

For younger readers, I’ll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house—as long as they were over age 4 or so—went to the door, opened it, and … went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they “played.”

Thirty years ago I was 11 years-old and I played outside quite a bit. Despite growing up in Pontiac our neighborhood had a touch of suburbia to it and the house I grew up in was right next to a vacant corner lot owned by the family that lived on the lot behind it. We called it The Field and it had three rows of trees down it with a big dirt ring encircling them from where countless kids had ridden bicycles, go-karts, and minibikes around and around. Stepping out the back (actually side) door of our house and walking across the driveway was all it took to escape to a world of imagination. For being a big lot with a bunch of trees in it we found plenty to do there. Neighborhood baseball games, games of tag, riding bikes, playing in the rain, losing our “action figures” in the grass, playing with the family dog, and so on. I once asked the man who owned it why he never developed it and he told me he left it empty so us kids and his own kids, he had a son and daughter himself, would have a place to play. Go to the neighborhood today and you’ll find that the lot has been sold and two newer homes crammed into it. A discovery that both surprised and saddened me. There’s a whole bunch of us who had years of play time invested in that empty lot and it’s sad to think that it won’t be available to future generations. There aren’t any parks close at hand to that neighborhood, but I suppose it doesn’t matter as most kids don’t play outside anymore.

Above and beyond The Field, I can remember having a pretty free run of the neighborhood even at a young age. I had friends who lived down the street or one street over and I used to go over to their houses to play regularly. I can recall walking to Alcott Elementary school every day as well starting in first grade, a distance of at least a couple of miles (uphill, both ways). I can recall being very envious of the kids who got to ride on a school bus once the January winds started in full force. As I grew older the distance I was allowed to traverse grew considerably. By the time I was in high school I was regularly biking to friend’s houses that were several miles away. One of my girlfriends lived a good 20 minute bike ride away and I used to ride the bike over to the Pontiac Mall (Summit Place Mall today) which took over an hour even with shortcuts. Once some of us got our licenses we’d get together all the time to hang out.

In comparison after Courtney came to live with me she stayed a lot closer to home. Part of that may be the fact that, unlike myself, she’s always had access to the Internet and thusly could keep in contact with her friends without having to pick up a phone and go physically hang out with them. She didn’t have anywhere near as regimented life as some kids do today, but she also didn’t go outside as much as I did as a kid. Not that we didn’t try to encourage her to go out more and hang out with friends. Now at 18 she’s just starting to hang out with her friends and go places with a frequency that’s somewhat similar to what I used to do at 16.  We didn’t plan it that way, that’s just how it sort of went. Of course I had the advantage of living in the same house for most of the first two decades of my life whereas Courtney with both parents has had more homes already than I’ve had in my entire life. The six years we lived in Canton was the longest stretch she’s had in one place. I sometimes feel bad that she didn’t get to have the sort of childhood I did.

Hat tip to for the link.

10 thoughts on “Yeah, I can remember going outside to play.

  1. I’m sorry Les the whole idea of the original artical is flawed.  Every Daily Mail reader knows that not letting children out to play is the fault of Europe Loving, lily livered, politically correct lefties WHILE AT THE SAME TIME knowing every stranger is a paedophile kidnapping murderer, AND ALSO there are too many unsupervised kids running riot drinking alchopops and getting pregnant (because Europe Loving, lily livered, politically correct lefties insist on their ‘human rights’ – another Europe Loving, lily livered, politically correct lefty idea).

  2. I used to go out and play all the time. I’m in my early 20s and I went out and played.

  3. I’ll have to agree with Angry Archeologist in that I too had a similar childhood experience.  I fondly remember my version of a barren lot and playing in the backyard.  Back then my fascination was with dirt and no day was really complete without trying to dig a hole bigger than yesterday.  I loved and abused every shovel I ever touched (until it became work) and was always building dirt forts and attempting mine shafts.  I remember one day trying to climb a tree and next day trying to claw through its roots.  My family always was prolific gardeners and practically our whole backyard was at one time or another cultivated.  Ahh, memories of potato baseball.  All that dirt and greenery probably explains why I am where I am today.  No childhood is complete without soil stuck in your digits!

  4. Being somewhat over thirty myself, I also have fond memories of playing outside.  We often played in the street- about once an hour one of us would cry out “Car!” and we would temporarily suffer vehicular trespass (at about 15 mph) through our playground.  There were also vacant lots galore for games and battles of various sorts, and the endless undeveloped stretches of the creek, with its frog ponds and scary tunnels.  Walking to school was the only option- no one got a ride, as far as I remember.

    Nowadays, whenever I visit my old neighborhood, the streets are deserted of pedestrians: no kids, no adults walking to Safeway; even the local park is practically unused, except for the occasional basketball game by high school students.  An entire culture has disappeared, along with its rituals, its rhymes, its rewards and trials.  I don’t have any evidence to back it up, but I can’t believe this is a good thing for America.

  5. As a parent, I’m guilty as charged. Our older daughter isn’t all that independent to begin with, but the younger one is like a cat.

    I remember Kindergarten, because it meant that I couldn’t roam the streets the way I used to. Yes, I’ve been out and about all by myself since I was old enough to walk, often to find our damn dog and bring him home. During Kindergarten or first grade, I took a 300 mile train trip by myself. “Change stations there, if you have questions ask the conductor, your grandparents will meet you in Augsburg.” It wasn’t even an exciting adventure. In fifth grade while tagging along with my father on a trip the U.K., the only other kid my age and I went exploring central London. We could barely speak a sentence of English, but that didn’t stop us from figuring out that Tussauds was too expensive for us, but we did visit the zoo in Hyde Park and played soccer with (against?) some local lads. Same in Skegness, our actual destination—the two of us did our own thing for the duration of our stay. We were not only free-roaming, we did it in a foreign country where we could barely communicate with the locals. In my case, this was too bad because my father was hospitalized and I rode out the trip with a British guest family and went home on the bus without my father.

    I’m not even sure if you wouldn’t get in legal trouble as a parent if you let kids do the things we did.

    I do have hopes for our younger daughter, though. I was watching some TV show in the guest room and she got bored and asked if she could go outside. I thought she meant outside of the room, but a while later she came back complaining that it was too cold—small wonder, even in Texas in can get too cold in the winter to wear nothing but diapers and cowboy boots outside. The little minx figured out how to open the front door, deadbolt and all, let herself out, and came back when her butt was freezing.

  6. Up to the age of 9 I lived in north London (Enfield to be precise) and at 8 used to cycle all over the place.  The A10 is scary enough in a car at times- I used to do it on my racing bike (yes, at 8)

    When we moved it was to a village, and I have done the cliched leave in the morning, come back muddy and scratched at dusk.

  7. Don’t know why, but I hadn’t considered looking my old haunt up on Google Maps. Turns out my walk to school was only a half mile, according to Google at least, but it sure felt like a couple of miles when you’re 6 years-old and in the middle of a Michigan winter.

    It’s weird peering down on the satellite view of the neighborhood.

  8. Go fly a kite. No, literally go fly a kite.
    I play a lot of games and spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer, but somehow I still find time to go out and fly almost every Wednesday (With the exception of this Wednesday as I am out of town for work 🙁 ) Been doing it for 15+ years.

    Get Outside!!

  9. I used to fly kits all the time. It’s been a year or so since I’ve had a kite and a spot to fly, but I’ll probably try it again come next spring.

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