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It’s definitely time for kids to get back outside

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Isn’t it amazing how a certain smell, taste, sight, or sound can transport us back to another time?

The smell of lilacs recently took me back to my childhood on Boyd Avenue in the North End of Winnipeg. Every house on our block had a lilac bush and at the beginning of June the sweet smell would permeate the air.

Every house also had a rhubarb patch, and by mid-June the rhubarb was ripe for the taking. I remember sitting down on the lawn with my best friend Debbie, a bowl of sugar and fresh rhubarb stalks between us. We would dip the stalks into the sugar and munch away — the tartness of the rhubarb making our mouths pucker.

Whenever I smell the lilacs in my own back yard or pull the rhubarb stalks from my garden, I am reminded of my blissful childhood days.

This is the time of year when children’s laughter fills the air. I remember the magic of the end of the school year and the months of freedom that followed. Our street was full of kids. I remember spending all day outside playing until our mothers called us inside for lunch and later for supper. We skipped rope, played sidewalk hop scotch, and team games like Mother May I, Red Light Green Light, and dodgeball. As the temperature soared, we ran through sprinklers. Often a group of us would disappear into the fields on Fife Street to explore for an entire afternoon. After supper, we organized marathon rounds of hide and seek and ran around until the sun set and our mothers rounded us up for the last time that day.

It was a simpler and safer time back then. My sister, who is the assistant director at a daycare, recently spoke to me about something called Nature Deficit Disorder. Spending less time outdoors is believed to be the cause of many behavioural problems in children today.

In our modern world, there are too many organized activities and there is not enough time for play. Many children are no longer connected to the outside world. This interferes with their ability to develop empathy for living creatures and for the environment. Therefore, schools and day cares are returning to outdoor classrooms and to play structures that are multi use.

Playgrounds are becoming more natural so that children can use their imaginations.

This brings me back to my childhood on Boyd Avenue. Let us hope that today’s children will have the opportunity to rediscover those carefree days of summer. Let us give them the freedom to discover the wonders of the natural world in which they live.

Joanne O’Leary is a community correspondent for Riverbend.

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