Monday, September 7, 2009

Free Play

Hi kids!

I'm not going to lie: I was spurred on to do this because of something I saw on tv.

And since none of my other friends in the blogosphere have bothered to post anything, I'll do you all a favour and entertain you! :)

So I was watching TVO (for those of you not in Ontario, it's "Tevevision Ontario"), and they show a lot of documentary type shows. Yesterday, one of the featurettes was about the de-evolution of children's free play time. That children are being super-parented and their time is so strictly managed that they have so little time just to be free and play - alone, or with other children. Free play time is seen as frivolous because you can't evaluate the results, whereas you can directly see how a child improves at soccer practice, and ballet, and hockey, and basketball. It's harder to measure the social skills and crativity being developed when children play together without direct parental supervision and control. They say that children now have a "play radius" one ninth of the size as children did 20 years ago. Like, say, a child now is only given the freedom to play in their backyard now, where a child 20 years ago might have played around in an entire neighbourhood. I know I had at least a kilometer or two - especially once I became a fierce cyclist! Just as long as you came home in time for supper!

So, after that I got up off the sofa. I walked out of the house, and decided I was going to walk down the street. I didn't bother to put shoes on. Bare feet. I didn't even know where I was going to go when I started out. I just let it evolve. I wanted to be silly, and think about having some time to explore like I did when I was younger. So I walked down to the bridge over the Nith river. And I walked down the side of the grassy bank and checked out the water. Too muddy for me. So I walked along the river, through the thick grass. I totally didn't care about not wearing shoes...except for the occasional thistly weed. And then I came to a spot where I realized I couldn't go any further unless I crossed this small spot of water. So I did what any kid would do. I rolled up my pants, and I started across. And then I saw...


but not quite as dramatically as this. The frog (or toad, probably) was just little. But I thought 'I wonder if I can catch him!?'....I made an effort, but I'm not as proficient at frog-napping as I was when I was 11. He hopped off, and then I had to continue on with crossing the water.

I walked for a short time, and realized that the water I had crossed was actually where the river had just narrowed (seems silly that I wouldn't have guessed that before, but the river was windy and the grass was tall). So to get back home I'd have to either walk up to the major road and cross the river on the highway my bare feet, or find a way to cross again. Thinking that I was out of luck (the river was easily 20 feet across), I started for the road. But then I saw a sign off near the water, and I couldn't read it from where I was, so I went over to it...just being curioius and all... And right near the sign (that said "no trespassing"), there was a small man-made dam. Perfect for walking across to get to the other side. It was muddy. I let my toes sink into the mud, and then I squished them around. I forgot how much I like that feeling. gooey and gross. So I get to the other side thinking that I can walk right up to where the P.G (playground) is. But once I'm across, I see that there's a barrier. Tall grass. Taller than me. But the other option is to go past where is says no trespassing.

Long grass it is.

But I did OK! There were some spikey bushes, and more thistles, but I manage to get to the park alive! So I swing a little on the swing. But then I remember the swings are older than I am, and worse for wear, so I jump off and go looking for more mischief. Now, a long time ago, the community planted a bunch of trees near the park. I remember when they were planted, but now it's like a thicket. I start to walk around this mish mash of trees, and I see that whoever mows the grass at the park, has mown a path through the tall grass and in and around the trees. New adventure. It's not a long path, and it leads right back to the playground, but it looks like it'll be fun for sneaking around at night. And I bet I'm not the only one to think that. Also, there are tons more spikey weeds, so I have to spend more time watching where I step than where I actually am.

And just off the side of the path, I can see where another path is being worn in. It leads to the other bridge (the one over the highway), and probably under it, to where the young boys go fishing. I'll have to explore that path another day.

And I felt silly, and fun, and young to be just out there and exploring and not having a purpose to what I was doing. It was entirely un-grown up. I loved it. I loved having muddy feet. And catching a frog. And traversing muddy waters, and rocks, and mysterious paths. And absolutely nobody there telling me that I was being childish.

I hope kids get to feel like that.


  1. I loved this post! That sounds like fun, except that I am far too much of a sissy to go out without shoes on!

  2. I'm glad you liked it! I loved doing it! And I don't think I'd do it without shoes in Kamloops...Millbank is much more of a rural town and I wasn't afraid of glass or needles or anything. But I would encourage you to do something fun!

  3. I liked this too. And I agree. It's sad that the only reason kids nowadays are computer whizzes before age ten is because they've sacrificed free-time and unstructured play. That's one of the best kinds of learning. Creativity of the mind is what teaches kids how they might react in a situation, without having to go through that situation (aka playing house etc). It's also sad that it is the reality now that kids probably aren't as safe being more than a block away from their house as we were 15 years ago.