By L.J. Devon
Somewhere deep inside every one of us, beating as natural as a heart’s pulse, is innocence and goodness. Somewhere deep inside, our inner child desires a sense of freedom, to take up the calling of who we are, to build something of our own, to explore the unknown, to be unique. Somehow along the way we’ve been instructed to follow along, to get in line, to learn a certain way. .
As our childhood innocence and desire for freedom is beaten out of us, we become adults constantly searching for meaning – always drawn back to a box of comfort, of confinement.
Our childhood experiences determine much of our psychology as adults. Allowing our children to play outside freely in an unstructured, natural environment may be one of the best decisions we ever make as parents.
Letting children create games and play along freely with their friends provides them with ideal conditions so that they can develop leadership skills, teamwork, problem solving skills and visionary traits. It’s these qualities that help them adapt to the challenges of real life as they grow up.
I remember the way I felt when I was 12, cutting trails through the woods, building bridges across creeks with fallen longs, erecting tree houses and forts with scrap lumber. It was these moments of unadulterated childhood freedom that I remember the most to this day. It’s these moments, hammering nails and hanging out of trees, where I was alive, creating my own space, adapting to my surroundings.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a sandbox, a bicycle ride with friends, or making games up on a trampoline. The possibilities are endless. I remember playing late into the summer evenings, in muddy ditches and creeks, shooting hoops and playing pickup football games.
Electronics stunting children’s ability to adapt to the real challenges in life
Today, free-spirited childhood experiences are being replaced with artificial reality and long hours behind electronic screens. As face-to-face interaction disappears, children lose their ability to communicate, to dream. The stereotypical American child now spends an average of seven hours inside, behind an electronic device! How will they ever be able to cope with the real world when half their waking childhood is consumed in an artificial world?
The upcoming generations are being deprived of their inherent creative abilities. As they are consumed with electronic devices day and night, their interpersonal and inner-personal growth is stunted.
By being separated from nature, the mud, the trees, the birds and the bees, children lose their connection with all life.
According to a study from the University of Michigan, just being outside with nature improves the memory and attention of children.
On top of that, children who play outside are healthier and smarter, because their immune systems are exposed to the real world of germs and therefore allowed to adapt to it all.
According to a Swedish study, when children engage in cardiovascular, outdoor activities, specific proteins and growth factors actually stimulate their brains.
Organising children’s lives and planning their academic success stunts their problem-solving skills later in life
The more we organise and micromanage our children’s activities, the more we stunt their ability to figure things out on their own. Parents feel so pressured to get their children to succeed, that they push them into organised clubs, groups and extracurricular activities.
Many times children just need unstructured, free-flowing, imaginative fun, where they make the rules – where they run freely through the woods, the yard and the neighbourhood.
It’s hard to fathom, but the average American child today only spends 30 minutes outside in unstructured play. Those 30 minutes outside each day would never have been enough for me growing up. Sometimes our kids need free time to just lie in the grass, catch bugs, talk with friends or drift into imaginative thought for hours.
As we script and plan our children’s activities and force them into structured environments, they go into adulthood and become followers, herded and shut up.
Our number one goal should NOT be to push them toward academic excellence or to push a college plan on them at age 12. Kids need freedom to make up their own minds, to pursue their own paths, just like adults.
If we continue to script their lives for them, they will grow into adulthood as dependents, clinging to false versions of themselves. As they strive to conform to the structure that’s been thrust upon them, they become too afraid to venture onto paths of their own.