A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Kids and a little wild space

Written March 14th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Open space in the Benton Woods development of North Albany.

Open space in the Benton Woods development of North Albany.

If we don’t want children to sit in front of screens or game consoles all the time when they’re not in school, we ought to make sure the world outside the front door is interesting enough to play in or explore. And we should be grateful if otherwise densely packed subdivisions include a little wild or open space that allows this.

I got to thinking about this the other day after reading an exchange of views on the website for homeowners in the sprawling Benton Woods subdivision of North Albany. What about the undeveloped areas or wetlands, people were wondering. Should children be allowed to play there, or should those areas be off limits? Some residents had seen trash apparently left over from kids’ activities, and they worried that this little patch of nature might be spoiled by careless use. (I’m paraphrasing here, but this was what I remember as the tenor of the concern.)

I don’t live there, and I’m not a kid (in case anybody hadn’t noticed). But I can see where children might be tempted to wander around those open spaces, at least the parts that aren’t too swampy or covered with standing water. (And even those, actually.) They could just want to see what was there, or they could pretend they were out in the middle of a jungle on some expedition.

It is customary for old folks like me to fret about the young, especially now that there are so many digital devices that keep children sitting and looking at screens, either to play games or communicate with friends, or even to learn something or do their homework.

So if there’s a nearby patch of nature that has a chance of causing kids to step outside and let their imaginations go, unless things get out of hand it would be a mistake to put up signs that say “No playing here.” (hh)

9 responses to “Kids and a little wild space”

  1. centrist says:

    Not that you need it, but I second the motion.
    I spent my formative years in an industrialized concrete jungle, I spent a lot of time outside but never got to experience what you describe until Dad moved us to the PNW. Trees!! Who knew they could be climbed? Building forts in the woods!!
    There are life-lessons involved in active play — imagination, cooperation, communication.
    Play on young’uns. Learn to get along. Learn what’s dangerous (and how to deal with danger). Solve problems on your own.

  2. Shane says:

    Agreed. Only place to play in that place would be on the street. Not a family friendly area. I don’t how people can breathe in that neighborhood. Not allowed to have basketball hoops out on the street, should have put in a much better park than they did (maybe with some basketball hoops). Funny thing is the sign at “their park” that says for “Benton Woods residents only”. Should put up signs at North Albany and Gibson Hill parks that say “No Benton Woods residents”.
    Streets are so small that there is not enough room to drive two cars in opposing directions down those streets.
    I guess as long as the kids stay in and play on their electronics the residents will be “happy”.

  3. Dad says:

    I grew up on a bike; had a paper route that covered nearly 5 miles. Halcyon days, those. Road all over creation, urban & rural, asphalt and gravel. Occasionally did stupid things, like all kids, but no permanent damage to anyone or anything.. Adults taught me needed lessons, now I try pass along the small amount of wisdom I’ve gained. Let the kids roam. Yell at them when they do dumb stuff, relate to them when you can. The more things change, the more they stay the same. There’s nothing new under the sun but cliches.

  4. Shawn Dawson says:

    Hear Hear — Hasso advocating for free-range kids and a free-range childhood. As do I.

  5. Rich Kellum says:

    All you have to do is get rid of all the ambulance chasers and the kids would be playing at their own risk. Now ask yourself the question: if it were your property and some kid took a bike ride and injured themselves, the parents get a lawyer and sue you……….saying you should have known that the standing water was there and kept it safe…………their kid was knocked unconscious and drown.

    More is the pity

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    How did all of us survive our childhoods without the sound & fury of “helicopter” parenting?

  7. GregB says:

    Yep, they (the developers) left a swamp because they had to because of wetland rules. In the old days (60 years ago), us kids built rafts and floated around in places like that. Oh no, not today, some person overly concerned about the environment would tell the authorities that kids were messing around in a area set aside for frogs, turtles, etc. Then the no trespassing signs would go up. The kids get the message, they stay away from the swamp and play with their addictive iPad or watch the garbage on TV. (This scenario is assuming the kids ever break away from their electronics and venture into the wilds of “their ” neighborhood swamp.) We live in a whole different world and culture from the 50’s and 60’s when I was growing up. We live in a world of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our choices for president of our country. Now, that is really sad and down right scary. OK, I’m getting off subject.

  8. HowlingCicada says:

    One more vote for free-range kids and against the unhealthy TV and video game existence, excessive activity planning, and endless chauffeuring of recent years.

    If the only differences between the major political parties were the issues hinted on this page, I would eagerly switch to Republican.

  9. N84BS says:

    kids need to be outside. the book “Last Child in the Wood” does a good job detailing how many children have nature deficit disorder.


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