With recent reports that current housing trends are failing to provide children with a 'real, outdoor' upbringing, questions have been raised as to just what we should really be looking for in a family home.
Do children really need a clothesline to swing on? Do they need trees to climb? Will X-Box release a virtual backyard? Does anyone really care?
Yes, they do. Well, I do, and I think a backyard should be a staple part of any child's alfresco upbringing. Allow me to explain.
Think back to when you were young. When entertainment systems were a thing of the future and you were stoked to just have a bike. Wasn't life simple? That's the exact type of feeling children should encounter on a daily basis as, unfortunately, it's the type of feeling us adults no longer experience.
It's why children get upset when it's 'time to go', because, at that point, NOTHING else matters to them except for having 5 more minutes on the trampoline. It's simple. And now, it seems, that because we live in a fast-paced world, we're adding simplicity to our backyards, and, in turn, stripping the simplicity away from our kids. "Like Scrooge at Christmas time?" you ask? No, like Scrooge but all the time.
I can remember playing for hours on end in my backyard. In fact, ask my mum and she'll tell you that over many weeks, I became obsessed with hanging from a small blue slide using an 'occy strap', one of those bungee cords with hooks on either end. I have no idea why that was fun and looking back on it, was downright stupid, but it was all I cared for. Then, when that got boring, I became obsessed with doing monos over a tree root that protruded in the grass (until I ate dirt and nearly broke my face). Despite this, I can't imagine growing up with anything less than a backyard. Sure, I didn't risk concussion when I played Nintendo, but my brain relished the opportunity to see real sunlight and not the dreary glow of a TV screen, which is why my Nintendo took a back seat to fresh air, backyard cricket and being bitten by bull-ants and I love that.
But now it's 2010, and the growing trend in low-maintenance backyards turns 'room to move' into an essential sacrifice to allow for less of a burden on stressed-out folks. I guess it's a fair point, I can understand the appeal of a backyard that can sustain itself. But what are kids to do? You can hardly tell a child to get off the computer when you have no alternate suggestion, and 'go play in traffic' won’t get either of you out of trouble. So where is the line? Perhaps a park is the answer? Maybe. Or even a kick of the footy at the local oval? Perhaps. But at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, your child needs room to push and shove and there's really no better (or safer) option than in your own backyard.
But it's not just your child's sanity you should be worried about. The health implications of this issue are just as concerning, as obesity has a direct link with the lack of exercise children receive today. And the fact that we're taking away backyards doesn't make this any better. You can feed your kids what you want, but if they don't move, ride a bike, climb a tree and run around, nothing will change, and they'll just want their Playstation even more.
There's no quick fix to this, because, as time moves on and society grows, consumer demand for such things will only grow. The thing is, I don't really think we need a quick fix. If this is growth, then we must adapt and grow with it and if time must be saved, then sure, save yourself the hassle of a backyard. Instead, why not use the time saved to take your kids to the park, go on a family bike ride or teach them how to hang off a slide using an occy strap? Enlighten your children and show them how to enjoy the world we're living in, as opposed to playing in a world on a TV screen.
They'll thank you for it one day.
The opinions expressed in The 7PM Side Project blog do not necessarily reflect those of The 7PM Project or the Ten Network.