I grew up on 18 acres with 2 ponds, woods, grassy area where we would play baseball and football. We had a long driveway and a paved path to ride bikes on. At one of the ponds, my dad had a couple of dump truck loads of sand dumped to make a beach. In short, it was the perfect place to raise kids.
When we moved here, I was in despair over the lack of land and water and yard. I had never lived in a neighborhood before. How did people survive without a place to swim and play in the sand? And riding bikes? My street looks like it’s at about a 40 degree angle. Not to mention this end of town they don’t keep up the roads very well and there are holes and bumps that make learning how to ride a bike very difficult.
Last year, with no car, we were mostly confined to our immediate area. But we could take the bus to the town pool for swimming. So that took care of swimming to some degree. It wasn’t as nice as having something in the backyard, but it was better than nothing. As for sand play, I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of sand for a big box. But we found a place on the dead end street up the hill from us, with huge piles of dirt. The city would dump dirt and take dirt from it for various projects.
Baseball, we started playing in the slanted parking lot for the public works building across the street a ways from us. But then we found a better place in another old parking lot that backed up against an abandoned brick building–so now we even had a backstop.
For running around and playing “magic football” (football without an actual ball-term and game coined by my son), our backyard wasn’t really big enough. The side yard is covered with rocks for a driveway or slanted too much for running on. But down the street from us there is a grassy area, maintained by the steel mill or the town with a memorial to the steel workers that have died over the years. It’s even lighted for when we want to play at night.
As for trees, there was really on one on my property. But I was in West Virginia, and I live on a (small) mountainside. All we have to do is hike up 2 streets and above them is the woods. We can hike to the top and see all the way downtown.
Now of course, we have a car, so we have more options. Our favorite place to go is the creek. The air is cleaner and cooler. You are surrounded by trees, and there’s that muddy, freshwater smell that reminds me of my childhood swimming in the ponds. It’s about a 10 minute drive up the road, and it’s lovely to get out of town, away from the steel mill. I bring a book or my sanding, and we stay for hours.
The great outdoors are everywhere. A bit here and a bit there is a jungle for little kids. Go out of your way to find the wild places. Re-purpose the spare land around your town. Where do you like to play off the beaten path?