Driving down my empty suburban street in the summer always saddens me. I turn my corner and drive past the house that does not have a lemonade stand in its front yard. Pulling up to my own house, I do not have to break for a basketball, baseball games in the street, or even a troop of bicycles. When I walk my dog around the eerily quiet block, I do not find myself stepping over abandoned hopscotch games and the only neighbors in sight are over the age of thirty-five.
Where have all the kids gone? I know they have not grown up, seeing as how there are still amply babysitting jobs on the block. There is only one answer: they have gone inside. When I was the age of the kids on my street (ten long years ago), the only time that I went inside during the summer was when I was forced to. I would play with the other neighborhood kids outside “until the street lights came on.”
I believe that kids have lost touch with the outside world. They may know all the tricks of downloading music and how to get to the tenth level of their video game, but “kick the can” and “ghosts in the graveyard” are foreign phrases to them. Playing outside in the summer is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. We were getting exercise, learning to socialize with other kids, and most importantly, we had fun together.
I think that parents need to encourage their children to go outside more, even if it means pulling the plug on the Play Station. There are many great experiences awaiting kids outside the house in the world of sidewalk chalk, ice cream bars dripping on the pavement, and lemonade stands. I believe a cord-free playtime.
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