There are many ways in which this generation’s childhood is different from that of the last generation, but one of the most abrupt contrasts is the degree to which it is being spent indoors. There are lots of reasons, including the marked increase in time spent interacting with electronic devices, the emphasis on scheduled activities and achievements, concerns about sun exposure — and, for many families, the lack of safe outdoor places to play. It’s not just children; adults are spending less time outdoors as well.
There are certain skills that help us plan, prioritize, negotiate and multitask. Children learn, develop and practice these skills only when an unstructured time is allotted for them. They need both, time alone and also with other children. They have to be taught to make up their own games, figure things out, and amuse themselves. So much of our world is changing, and not for the better. If a child grows up never walking with his bare feet , digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost.
It is not as daunting as it seems. We can do what our parents did: send our children outside. Even better, we can go with them. And do everything we can to be sure that every child can do the same.
Shall we try it? Today perhaps.