“Play is the work of children.” – Friedrich Froebel
This often paraphrased quote is as true today as it was when Froebel, the Father of Kindergarten, uttered those words in the 1800s. I suspect Friedrich might be sorely disappointed in what goes on today.
Somewhere along the course of the last 30 years or so, childhood has changed drastically in America. What was once marked by kickball games, playing in the creek, hanging out with neighborhood friends, and boisterous laughter in backyards and neighborhood parks has been replaced. In its place is a hyper-scheduled, adult-paced existence that is leaving many children exhausted, stressed out, and unhappy.
Of course, there are numerous co-factors: parents’ schedules, increased screen time, safe access to green space, and countless others add up to childhood’s failing grade in today’s society. In 2007, UNICEF released a report ranking the state of children in 21 developed countries on a variety of factors, including happiness. The United States came in second-to-last on the list of “worst countries for kids.” How can this be? And, more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
Personally, I have had enough, so I am starting this blog: The Grass Stain Guru. As much it is about reconnecting to nature and the benefits of unstructured play, for me it’s about a much larger issue: Restoring childhood.
This isn’t about judgment or any larger agenda than this: I want us all to make time for unstructured play, to get a little dirty, to feel the sand between our toes and the sun on our face. I want childhood to be steeped in mud and covered in grass stains, the way many of us remember it. I want adults to have fun too, parents and nonparents alike! It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Let’s take childhood off the endangered species list, and save ourselves in the process.
As the national and global economy continue to struggle and we look as a nation to simplify the way we live and explore sustainable lifestyles, I challenge us all to look beyond the fiscal and environmental, and add happiness and genuine human connections to the list. Without those, nothing is truly sustainable. We cannot simply reconnect with nature, but we have to reconnect with ourselves and each other and teach today’s children to do the same.
So, who’s with me?! Let’s have some fun. Join me – let’s go play. I’ll race you to the forked tree in the park. We’ll have a picnic and chat. We’ll laugh and watch the clouds go by. Trust me – you’re going to LOVE it!
See you outside- The Grass Stain Guru