I grew up in the 50s, “back when the world was new and all” (Rudyard Kipling), and our summers were filled with roller skating, “cops and robbers,” “kick the can,” and most of all, building huts and hideouts in the scrub oak near our house. Acorns, sticks, pieces of scrap wood, anything from the junk pile out back became kitchen tables, couches, or mailboxes. Many imaginative and creative hours were spent playing store owner, neighbor, and policeman.
Then several years ago, my husband and our grandson built a hut on our property. (See photo above) As is often the case, the experience of building it was as memorable and meaningful as the playing in it after. Now, this grandson’s younger brother and two cousins have turned it into a fort complete with flag, song, warning signs to invaders, hiding places for secret items, and coinage–apricot and plum pits worth millions.
They even have their officers with specific roles to play, celebrations, and plans to take over the world (or maybe just the neighboring tribes).
All this just looks like play—but a careful observer will see in it the developing skills of cooperation, leadership, negotiation, teambuilding, decision making, and much more. That’s what happens when kids are given time to play outside—by themselves, unstructured, open-ended.
Notice here a few more huts and hideouts built by kids in our area. They all show how children value their own kid-sized spaces where they can be king, queen, pirate, or just big sister.
Trust your memory—weren’t your best life skills learned in the back yard? The vacant lot next door? The mountains? If you want to see who else learned these important life skills while being part of a gang building a fort, attend your next city council meeting.
In the meantime, we at Buddy Packs strongly urge parents and adults to provide children with unstructured time outdoors—and when it is in natural or wilderness areas, be sure they are wearing their Buddy Pack!
Shop Buddy Packs for amazing outdoor survival gear for Kids & Teens!