The Death of Outdoor Playtime?

I’m reading a book called Kaboom, which is about  a man who launched a program that builds playgrounds in disadvantaged areas that really needs them. While I’ve just started it, what I have read so far has really struck a cord with me. According to a study, today’s children are now 6 times more likely to play a video game than ride a bike on a typical day.

Did you just read that!?!? SIX TIMES more likely! As much as that horrifies me, I believe it. We live in a small town – a “safe” town where kids still walk to school and people know at least some of their neighbors by name. Yet, I rarely see kids playing in their front yard anymore. I might see two kids riding their bikes, but it’s rare enough that I think “Hey, there are some kids riding their bikes!” Most of the playgrounds Mason and I visit are ghost towns. I see dozens of trampolines and a handful of swimming pools on my way home from work and I never see anyone jumping or swimming.

I grew up in this town. I put hundreds of miles on my bike (well, somedays it was a horse and other days a motorcycle…) and rollerblades every summer. I spent hours every day playing at the playground. I attempted to play tennis (on the now barren tennis courts) and spent every Friday night playing Hide and Go Seek Tag with a dozen neighbor kids. My mother literally rang a bell went it was time for us to come home for the evening.  It makes me sad to think that Mason won’t have that same childhood.

I was trying to wrap my brain around why things are so different. At first I was like “Ah ha, video games!!” Case in point,  I grew up without video games. We finally got a Gameboy about two years after everyone had grew sick of theirs, but other than that, we never had any sort of video game console.  It seems like that would be the obvious answer, but all of my friends had Nintendos and we had a computer with lots of games, but we still all played outside. I don’t feel like our area is any less safe than it was in the early 90s, so where in the world are the kids???

It’s easy for me to say right now “Mason won’t be one of those kids inside all day in front of the TV and Wii. He’ll be out building forts and riding bikes” but all of those activities are much more fun with friends. I really hope it’s a “I don’t want to play outside because no one else does!” circle that we can break – one kid sees another kid playing outside and soon the whole neighborhood is venturing outside again.

So what do you guys think? Why do kids not play outside anymore? Have video games and the TV just become that addicting? Are parents less likely to let their kids outside (even in “safe” neighborhoods?) If you have kids who are 6+, how much time do they spend outside during the summer? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this!

This time last year – Sunday in Photos

7 thoughts on “The Death of Outdoor Playtime?

  1. Amie Post author

    I hear you! My neighborhood was really close growing up and I pretty much roamed RL as I pleased. “Free Range” wasn’t a thing, it’s just how it was! I probably won’t be able to give Q the same luxury and it’s disappointing.

  2. Mandi McClure Post author

    It’s so sad to think about. My son is 2 and when it’s not to hot in the evenings now we go out. We already have a huge swing set that I can see him having sleep overs in when gets older. (I hope.) We played outside all the time. Maybe, as parents, we aren’t encouraging them to go out enough. I know my mom would turn off the TV and make us go outside if she thought we were watching too much. (But that rarely happened because we were outside most of the time.)

  3. Allie Post author

    I was one of those kids who loved being outside from morning to night so I just expect my kids to do the same. I don’t really understand why parents aren’t telling their kids to go outside and create a game. The possibilities of fun outdoors are endless! I think as parents we need to be out with our kids and show them all of the things we used to enjoy as a child. I think that is part of the problem though. Parents don’t want to play inside or outside with their kids because they are too busy. Sad!

    Sorry I’ve been out of touch. =/

  4. Lu Post author

    I think there are many things to consider. One of which is that it’s really not safe out there, not as much as it was 20 years ago when me and you were young. There predators, pedophiles and monster around every corner nowadays. I wouldn’t let my children play outside without my strict supervision and I can’t just leave everything to watch them. We have play hours during the day, but for the most part, when I’m at work or doing house chores that don’t allow me to sit and watch them, they aren’t allowed outside without me for more then 5 minutes. But that’s me!

  5. Michelle Post author

    I wasn’t allowed out growing up, but I grew up in the city. It wasn’t safe and there wasn’t really anything to do. I lived in a neighborhood-y place in Queens (New York City) but there was nothing to do and the places where there were things to do (parks, community centers) were either too far or overrun with stranger danger.

    I did have some great family time and inside time though! You can do really wonderful things inside and I think if there’s a solid reason to be kept inside, it shouldn’t be digital time.

    Following from Totally Tuesday, come stop by Thing Sent My Way!

    Michelle @

  6. Melanie Post author

    I almost NEVER see any kids in my neighborhood. My girls are 4 and 6 and love to be outside. They ride bikes, draw with chalk, dig in the mud, play with bubbles, and we have a pool, trampoline, swing set, etc. We own a few knock of plug n play video games, but no Wii or Xbox. Our street is quiet, but I feel better when I can keep an eye on them, and sometimes I just can’t drop everything to go out with them. Plus, the heat/humidity in South Louisiana is unbearable in the summer!! Once school starts next week, there will be homework and dancing two nights a week. But we always find a way to make some time for outside play.

  7. Colleen @ Mommy Panda Post author

    The kids in my neighborhood still play freely. Sometimes to the point where I’m like “Uh, you should go home…” Example: I was riding my bike with The Munchkin in tow, and this little 5 year old girl just joined us in our bike ride down the street. She was chatting me up and I could have been anyone!

    Anyway, I always see kids riding their bikes and swimming in pools and playing in yards during the day, but once it starts to get dark they’re gone.

    PS: My mom used to ring a bell to tell us to go home too. I hated it!!!!

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