One of my fondest memories of play was when I was eleven years old, and was allowed to explore the woods by our house. My best friend lived down the street from me and we would spend hours in the woods. We were lucky enough to have a neighborhood full of kids so there was always someone around to play with. During our summers we were allowed to play ALL day, until the streets light came on. I remember my mom saying to us “you can not keep coming in and out of the house, once you’re out, you’re out. If you come in you stay in!” Needless to say, we stayed out ALL DAY. One summer all of the neighborhood kids decided to build a fort in the woods. We all went around and collected scrap pieces of wood, metal, plastic, anything we could find lying around the woods, or stuff that our parents were throwing away they’d let us take it in to the woods. We built a two-story fort, it was AMAZING!! We had old furniture and staircase up to the second floor. It definitely helped that some of the older kids were really crafty with their hands and tools. This fort was like having our own “summer home.” Some of the boys rigged up a rope swing and they would hop off the second floor and swing through the trees. My only regret was not taking any pictures of our handmade fort.
Those were the days of really being able to play and explore. There wasn’t scheduled “play dates,” it was literally get outside and use your imagination, make up a game, roll down a hill, make a mud pie, dig for worms, climb a tree.
I feel fortunate to have had a childhood were there wasn’t the level of fear there is today for kids to go outside and explore. I always felt safe playing in woods without adult supervision, my parents taught me well, “don’t talk to strangers,” “look both ways before crossing,” and “be home before it gets too dark.” They were confident enough in me to give me that sense of independence, and I actually looked forward to the infamous question of “what did you do today” at the dinner table each night.