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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 20 2018

10 Basic Human Skills the Younger Generation Isn’t Learning

By Mark Sisson
75 Comments

Inline_Skills_Kids_MissingThere are many reasons to be thankful for the cushy existence modernity affords us. War and other extenuating circumstances aside, you probably don’t fear for your life on a daily basis. You have clean water to drink. Food is widely available, and it’s affordable. You survived infancy, childhood, and adolescence, which is quite special on a historical scale.

But there are downsides. Food has gone industrial. We increasingly live our lives in the digital realm and ignore the physical. Perhaps the most recent change relative to that shift has been the physical neutering of our kids. This has happened more broadly across all ages as countries shift away from manual labor toward more of an information economy, but it’s become incredibly pronounced in the generation coming up. At least when I grew up kids still wandered the streets in search of adventure, testing themselves out physically, undergoing mental and physical challenges, breaking bones and straining muscles, and learning about movement from the best teacher of all—hands on experience. Now? The lucky ones will get gymnastics or martial arts or dance training a couple days a week. But most languish indoors, prevented from the kind of free-form exploratory play human children have enjoyed for thousands of generations.

What are they losing? What physical skills —basic human abilities—will they lack?

Throwing

The recent complaint from an Army general illustrates this nicely: New recruits are so terrible at throwing grenades that they’ve nixed the requirement for graduation altogether. And it’s not just a strength thing, although I’d imagine that’s often a problem. It’s a technique thing. They didn’t grow up throwing.

Throwing on a regular basis when your brain is still developing establishes stronger neural pathways that persist into adulthood. It’s why learning languages and riding bikes “sticks” more when you do it as a kid. Throwing is no different.

Throwing is a human universal. Hell, the ability to lead a target, to subconsciously triangulate all the variables and figure out where to throw in order to hit the running antelope (or streaking wide receiver) is uniquely human. It may have made being human possible. We have those long arms, hyper mobile shoulders, upright postures, big brains, and powerful posterior chains that allow us to generate incredible power on and accuracy with our projectiles.

Weighted Carries

Twenty thousand years ago, we carried foraged and hunted food incredible distances on a regular basis. Two thousand years ago, we wore a hundred pounds of kit on months-long military campaigns. One hundred years ago, we carried slop out to the hogs and pitched hay bales. Fifty years ago, I lugged wheelbarrows of dirt around the yard helping my dad with the garden.

Today, kids carry their mandatory iPad to school and complain when Mom or Dad tries to get them to help with yard work.

Balancing

The world is unstable. Things teeter. They get wet and slippery. Sometimes the walking surface is too narrow for our feet, or for more than one foot at a time. We need to be able to traverse it safely and effectively.

Ideally, kids should seek out these unstable, narrow surfaces. Park bench? They should hop on and walk along the back. Curb? Way better than a sidewalk. But their attention is elsewhere, and I think it’ll come back to bite them in the future.

Climbing

I did a lot of impromptu climbing as a kid. And not just large rocks, trees, and mountains. I’d climb fences, so many fences. There were multiple ways to scale a chain link fence. My favorite was going head first and flipping over onto my feet followed closely by perching along the top and jumping down.

Can’t recall the last time I saw a kid climb a fence, let alone a tree. Climbing gyms are growing, so there’s a real desire for it. Rock climbing is a different beast though. It’s more methodical and strategic. What I’m interested in is the ability and confidence to just get over barriers. You see an obstacle. You climb it, without really thinking or planning. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

Jumping

Jumping is an act of faith. In your own abilities. In the stability of the landing surface.

You can see it in kids who’ve never quite jumped before. They approach the edge, look down, look over at you, look back down. They pump their bodies, priming for the jump. Their eyes get a glint of anticipation. They know it’s a big thing, the first jump. A momentous occasion. Then they leap, and it works, and they’re hooked. They’re believers.

A jump is an explosive hip extension, utilizing the glutes and hamstrings. You know, the muscle groups that grow flabby and atrophied when we sit down all the time.

Landing

The most important part of jumping is the landing. Landing correctly protects your joints from injury and allows you to smoothly transition into the next movement (running, jumping again, dodging). It’s a foundational skill for most sports and non-sport athletic endeavors, like dancing or parkour.

How many broken hips, sprained ankles, and knee injuries are coming down the line for future adults who never learned how to land a simple jump?

Rock Scrambling

Bouldering is great and all. Rock climbing is fun. But my favorite thing to do on and around large deposits of rocks and minerals is scramble up and down them. You go without any equipment. No special shoes. No fanny pack full of chalk. No ropes. And unlike the insane free climbers, no real risk of death and dismemberment.

Rock scrambles get you into situations hairy enough to get your blood pumping and force you to reckon with your own mortality, but manageable enough that you can usually get out without adult assistance. That’s a huge thing for kids to experience—the realization that life can be dangerous and risky while still worth doing.

Creek Walking

One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was walking up and down creeks by jumping from rock to rock, making sure never to touch ground. We’d sometimes do creeks miles long this way. This is no easy task. You have to be willing to go barefoot (or sacrifice grip and stability and risk getting your shoes filthy). The rocks are slippery and mossy. The water’s cold. And you have to actually go to a functioning creek.

Creek walking forces focus. You can’t sleepwalk your way through a creek walk. Every step is different, presents new challenges. It’s mentally and physically draining.

Stamina

I can’t tell you the number of gangly 5-year-olds I’ve seen being carted around in strollers, legs hanging over the side, face craned toward the tablet in their laps, oblivious to the world occurring around them. Or the kids whining about how “their legs hurt.” One study from 2013 found that today’s kids take a minute and a half longer to run a mile than kids of the same age from 30-40 years ago. How do you think their endurance will be as adults?

The reason why is simple. Kids have fewer opportunities and inclinations to walk. As mentioned earlier, kids aren’t roaming around neighborhoods like they used to. They’re not putting in the miles. The rise of smartphones has also contributed. If part of your daily allotment of hours is dedicated to something entirely novel on the historical timeline—staring into a handheld electronic device—you will necessarily have fewer hours available to do physical things like walking

Strength

Kids are more likely now to be weaklings than they were twenty years ago. Between 1998 and 2008, ten-year-olds in one British town suffered huge losses in strength:

  • 27% fewer situps
  • Arm strength dropped by 26%, grip strength by 7%
  • 10% of kids couldn’t hang from a bar, compared to just 5% in 1998

Who wants to bet the problem is even worse today?

This is a problem. Child weaklings grow up to be adult weaklings. Their physical inabilities perpetuate themselves. If physical movement isn’t rewarding because you’re bad at it, get winded easily, and fail at the skills required to excel, you’re less likely to pursue it into adulthood. That’s when the health issues mount, your appearance declines, and things fall apart. A society of physically inept and weak people cannot stand for long.

You don’t “need” these skills to live in today’s world. That’s the whole point, in fact: Kids are coming into adulthood never having needed to learn how to do this stuff. But being able to jump, balance, throw, climb, and walk while carrying heavy loads makes life easier, more enjoyable, and more rewarding. It opens doors. The disappearance of these skills is a tragedy.

But it’s fixable. I’m not calling for rigorous training sessions. Humans are built to do these things. They just have to do them.

What can we do to fix the problem? Are there any other skills today’s younger generations just aren’t developing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Take care, everyone.

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75 thoughts on “10 Basic Human Skills the Younger Generation Isn’t Learning”

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  1. I love this list. This is one of many reasons I won’t send my son to school. Kids need ample free time out in nature! Forcing them to sit and obey for the majority of their waking hours is absurd.

    1. It’s NOT either/or! Kids need to be able to do BOTH – focus on schoolwork in a classroom setting AND run around outside in free play.

      I’ve been around long enough on this planet and spent enough time around different parts of this world to see what helps kids develop into healthy productive adults.

      Humans need to learn to navigate structured settings (school, work, team play…..) AND unstuctured free play throwing their bodies around and figuring things out on the fly…..scrambling across open terrain is a great example!

      1. The reality is that no kid in conventional school has enough free time outside to do these things. And school is problematic for a myriad of other reasons. The antithesis of Primal living, really.

        1. While that is true, in my experience academic pursuits cannot be blamed for this, because they take up at most a few hours of each school day. The rest is made up of “obligatory hobbies” such as drawing and music, as well as classes which are content-free because the teacher did not prepare adequately or failed to turn up. If school hours were reduced to only important classes, and no more of those than the teachers can fill with meaningful content, I believe the conflict would be resolved.

          1. That graph looks funny to me. What data are you using? In my experience, 7-8 hour schooldays, plus several hours of homework every night, is much more likely (since you are only considering students old enough to get by on eight hours of sleep a night).

      2. Interesting theory, but since you are just saying “In my opinion” and so is Shayla, why should we trust you over her?

        Schooling was invented 200 years ago in Prussia to brainwash children so when they are drafted by the army they would die “in honor” instead of abandoning the battle. This does not seem like a practice that fits into ancestral health.

        Learning through self exploration, reading, self directed interest is the way humans have always learned, if we ignore that it is to our own peril

        1. Very few kids are able to pick up reading, writing, or math on their on. They have to be taught. Life in today’s world, as an independently functioning individual, would be incredibly difficult without those basic skills. An “unschooling” approach is flaky at best and just won’t cut it in the long run.

          1. Sure, taught. But why does that mean the Socratic method, sitting in a desk for 7 hours, only focusing on one task for 30 minutes and then immediately switching to the next thing the teacher wants to discuss?

          2. It’s a good idea to understand what you’re talking about first….
            Socratic method for your education ;).

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method

            “is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions”

          3. That’s a common misconception, Shery. Check out the book Free to Learn or the blog Happiness is Here for more info. Kids learn reading, writing, and math naturally if allowed to do so.

          4. That’s a common misconception, Shary. Check out the book Free to Learn. Children will learn to read and write naturally if allowed. Same goes for math. The busywork that most schools require is pretty worthless.

      3. +1, ran. Jumping on an “out there” bandwagon, no matter how well intentioned, can turn out to be a major mistake that one’s children will pay the price for. A few descriptive words I can think of: maladapted, socially inept, uneducated, unemployable, unable to earn a living, etc., etc…

        1. Not to offend – this is just my opinion – they already have that in third world countries, where parents would love to have the option to send their kids to a school, but unfortunately the only local school was destroyed by the local warlord.

          Or speak to refugees from say Laos, or Vietnam, where the schools were closed to education when communism took over, and the only “schooling” given was anti American rhetoric – I have spoken directly to people who were there, so any so called university propaganda opinions wont wash with me.

          Having the option to send your kids to school is a luxury, and pray you don’t see the day (or your children, or grand children), where free schooling is talked about as some long lost luxury that their grandparents had.

          There are many negatives of schools these days, and unfortunately a short supply of teachers who have not be indoctrinated by cultural Marxism. We definitely need to turn this around, or society as we know it will collapse, from this end your child needs to be exposed to school as it is, and yet learn from yourselves, so that one day they will be able to deal with all the “personalities” in society at the moment.

          You want your child to train both their mind, body, and basic skills – when I was eight, myself, and most of my friends could read a map, make a campfire, build a camp site, and also read and write, and add numbers – who would have thought ? These things are not exclusive, and in fact build off each other, schooling also provides the much need socialisation lessons that will have to be learn’t, either now, or when your child grows up and leaves you – your child is going to grow up, and faster than you think, this cannot be stopped, and they will have to integrate with wider society, like it or not.

          Kids need education – “knowledge is knowledge, and strength is strength – ignorance is not strength, weakness is weakness.”

          1. Carol Black’s Schooling the World provides an interesting perspective on Imperialist schooling — it’s far from a universal good.

            I regect the notion that school helps children “integrate with wider society”. While schooled children are isolated every day in same-age groups, obeying instruction, unschooled children are out IN society, interacting with people of all ages and learning what interests them. They are far more creative and capable of learning than most schooled children.

            Human knowledge has gone so far beyond what any one person can learn in a lifetime. It’s absurd to force every child to learn the same sliver of information (only to forget most of it after the test). Much better to help them learn how to teach themselves and pursue what interests them. Basic skills like math and reading are a natural part of that.

          2. That’s really cool…. if you can afford not to work so you can educate your kids all day.
            How do you pay your bills, if you don’t mind me asking?

          1. It depends on the country and on the state, but families who want to can find a way to do it anywhere.

  2. You left one out. While not as physical as the others it’s almost as basic. Very few adults I know can actually build a fire properly, even with modern ignition sources.

    1. That was the first thing I thought of before I clicked on the article! I was a Boy Scout from 11-18, and even though it’s raining outside right now (has been all day) I could go out and start a fire with flint and steel with materials from my suburban back yard.
      I’m actually feeling inspired to go out and show the neighbors what I’ve got.
      Now where did I put that flint…

      1. My 14 year old son is a scout – they’ve gone rock climbing, kayaking, and done all sorts of outdoor stuff. Love scouts!

    2. I don’t know about properly, but I was quite pleased with myself when we went camping last summer and I successfully started a fire (with matches) in a light rain and cooked breakfast over it. It would have gone better if I’d realized one of our bundles of wood (the one I was using, naturally) was much damper and less cured than the others. But I did it!

  3. I worked in school age child care in the US for 10 years right out of highschool. Licensing required that kids be supervised at all times and any time we treated any injury (like give a kid a bandaid for a scrape), we had to write an accident report for the child’s parents (and often deal with backlash from parents over said scrapes). This meant that the adults supervising the children didn’t want to deal with the paperwork for small, regular childhood experiences and we’re constantly cautioning kids to be careful or telling them they’ll fall off and hurt themselves if they take any risks. Ive heard the same phrases from parents countless times at parks. Until studying early childhood development in college, I didn’t realize how detrimental these messages can be to a child’s development.

    1. It’s ridiculous. I know one person who steadfastly refuses to allow her kids to climb trees (or anything else taller than a foot or two). Doesn’t them that they might get hurt, but that they WILL get hurt. Way to instill confidence!

      1. And what is scary, is that if you deny these experiences and scrapes as a child, when they become an adult and are in a situation, out of your control, where these skills might save their life, or their children, they wont have the skills (picture say climbing from a burning building, or stranded in the forest).

        At some point everybody will face danger – its a fact of life.

    2. My thought exactly. It usually drives me crazy when lack of exercise in children is blamed on technology. I see overgrown kids in pushchairs all the time who have no device. They just sit there staring into space, or complain about being strapped down all day. The same thing was the case in my technology-averse school. Students didn’t exercise any more than others, they just lost the academic benefits of online resources as well. Which is to say: don’t complain about technology use unless you know that the child is allowed to pick physical activity over sitting still in the first place.

      1. Totally agree – they no doubt ridiculed the pencil and paper as a “time consuming” device when it first came out, it is a case of using it as a tool to enhance life rather than a crutch to indulge laziness. Human beings by default will use anything to choose a path of laziness. It has been shown that video games enhance reaction time, spatial recognition, and visible enhancement on the visual cortex of the brain – it doesn’t mean you should spend all your time playing video games. Combined with physical games and skills they can make a powerful combination.

  4. Agree with Marguerite. Kids will do all these things if left to themselves. It’s the adults that get in the way.

  5. Ah, crik walking. Summer or winter, don’t get no better. Started when I was 6. Still at it at 56. Guaranteed wildlife watching, to boot.

  6. My guess is that within 10 years, most kids will be just sitting inside their rooms with a Virtual Reality headset on and weighing 250 lbs. The parents will be texting in the other room.

  7. It is sad, my son is 15 and should be pretty fit but I feel like I could out run him and I’m 63!!!
    I make him go outside and play as much as possible, kids are lazy to begin with at that age so I feel like a NAG but I still do it.

  8. When I was a kid we ran all over the neighborhood, climbing fences, trees, walking across the edge of boards and across tree limbs, throwing rocks, playing baseball and basketball. Today, parents are afraid to let kids out of their sight, I get that to a certain extent. I also was a Judo competitor starting at age 15, which crosses a lot of the things off Mark’s list. As a boy scout (Eagle Scout no less 🙂 ) did a lot of hiking and camping including backpacking and some survival camping up in the mountains. Now I sit / stand in front of a computer all day as an IT guy. I’m going to take a walk now gosh darn it! I may first grab some heavy dumbbells and do some farmer walks!

  9. Great list. To this I would add navigation. Many people nowdays have become so dependent on GPS directions that they are losing their innate sense of Wayfinding, let alone knowing how to read a map.

    1. Good one. So good I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark added it to a supplemental post with more worthy mentions.

  10. 10 ticks for my 2 kids, even #1 who started school 5weeks ago. Parents need to parent & not be absorbed in technology either. Our 2yo son runs EVERYWHERE. Since our kids first started walking THEY refused to be carried. Kids want to do this, I totally agree that it’s the ADULTS who get in the way.

  11. Now we need a list of more complex skills, like growing veggies, processing chickens, cooking, navigation (as johngo said below) etc.

  12. Maybe I’m totally wrong but I thought carrying too much weight when you are still growing caused all sorts of problems. Like a backpack weighing close to 20 lbs when you are 6 causing scoliosis or other problems. Maybe it’s just causing problems if you have bad posture? Or weak core muscles? Maybe it’s only a symptom?

    1. Or a combination of things. My sister’s and my backpacks weighed about the same, she developed scoliosis and I didn’t. The why I don’t know.

    2. I think part of it is the WAY things are carried. Katy Bowman has done a lot of work on this topic. She wants people to carry things in all kinds of different ways, not just in a backpack on their back. Check out her website, Nutritious Movement. She has great ideas!

    3. I would venture that Lisa Z is correct. The devil is in the details. A heavy backpack carried all day every day is probably not a good example of mimicking natural forms of paleo-human forms of work. And they likely aren’t even wearing the back packs properly anyway. I remember in elementary and middle school most every one would sling their ridiculously heavy and bulky school bags very low. Slinging them high and tight was considering–i don’t know, nerdy and lame, and rather than endure even mild ridicule, most just went along to get along. So stupid right? But thats the insanity of life in school.

  13. We had recess at school and then when we got home, we rode bikes, built forts and played until called in for supper. I don’t know if children are doing these things. I see them walking around the neighborhood but they are looking at their phones or smoking. A fitness initiative might help.

  14. One of the great things about being in a small town, at least in rural Alaska is that it’s still safe enough to let kids ride around on bikes everywhere and go to the store by themselves, home from school, meet friends at park, etc. But still even then I rarely see other families taking their kids out in trails, into the forest. Rarely Do people walk to the store instead of drive ( literally a few blocks or under a mile unless you live far out of town) my 3 year old is outside EVERY DAY unless it’s under 20 degrees or super terrible winds ( again forest is amazing as it will shield you) I put the infant in a carrier and layer for warmth. There’s rarely a time you can’t go out to play, imo. I wish there was a resource to bring people together and get their kids outside more, and not just to a park or in their yards. So far, I have noticed a large difference in my toddlers athletic abilities compared to other children her age, hopefully she grows up and still loves trees and clinic boulders.

    1. That sounds lovely! There’s a similar culture on the big island of Hawaii as well — kids running all around the neighborhood.

      There’s an organization called HikeIt Baby that gets families together outdoors. You could check if your area has one or start your own!

    2. I also live in rural Alaska, and I think that the kids who grow up here must be an anomaly. Most are pretty active year round: fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, skating, biking, harvesting wood, dogmushing and snowmachining. Of course there are exceptions, but I feel so lucky to live in a place in which families value outdoor recreation.

  15. This is too true!! Allow me to add “Making Things”. Kids are not taught how to make or do anything real or useful. Not even how to cook food. My kids were the only ones who had any idea how to cook the food at their Girl Scout Camporee, and that includes the leaders!! Kids should at least learn how to cook some simple things – eggs, a burger, potatoes and such – before they leave the household.
    Also, without being allowed to run around in yards and woods, kids have no unstructured time in which to learn about the materials of the natural world. They cannot feel the difference between wet and dry wood, or know why they would use one or the other for what task. They have no idea how to build or make things – a primal skill for sure! And few parents have the patience or time to teach what few skills THEY have to their children! (It is much harder to teach a kid to help you make a meal, paint a room, hammer in nails, etc., than to just do it yourself!) I could go on…

    1. It’s up to us to teach them. My 17 year old son used to love to bake cakes when he was 9. My 14 year old son is an active camper and hiker. We got my 10 year old a trampoline for his birthday and he and his best friend jump every day. Having boys, we are very outdoor focused and love to hike. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are plugged in to phones and computers much more than I would like, but we also are outside a lot.

  16. Other one: rope climbing
    In my time many kids could do it, some better some worse, with the “pros” doing the L

  17. Thing is, some kids are naturally more sedentary and less athletic than others. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lazy, or that they will grow up to be lazy adults; it’s just the way they are at that particular stage of their lives. You can hand them a tennis racket or a football and they might give it a halfhearted effort, but then they’re likely to drift off to some corner with their electronic device or whatever they prefer doing.

    I think you’re better off to let kids find their own level of physical activity, even if it seems to be almost nonexistent at times. Chances are good that it will improve as they get older and their range of interests broadens.

    1. True. The same is also the case in the other direction – some children need significantly more exercise than the average, which is also not catered to in normal schools.

      However, we need to remember that things like obesity and nutrient deficiency can cause people to become sluggish. In my view, a child who does not exercise willingly, even when many different options are provided, should have a comprehensive health and nutritional status checkup.

  18. Hmmmm… It is definitelly about finding the right balance between the skills we need today and the skills that the children will need in their future. Times are changing fast!

    This is an excellent list.

  19. I’m myself born in the seventie. Me and the kids around me were allways outside. My son, now 19, I used to bribe him sunday mornings or in afternoons after school to go outside with me. To the forest or for a long hike or bike. I bribed him with pocket money, nice dinners and toys. Now he still comes with me to the world outside. And I don’t have to bribe him no more 🙂 never regret any bribing. He has turned out a very good screen-staring kid but he also knows the outside world, to climb trees and swim in open water, to walk for miles and enjoy nature. Not as well as we did in my youth, though. Rather sad, and I am not imune to the screen either. And so are my parents.

  20. Weighted carries! I have been researching and experimenting in this field for some time.

    Male military recruits throughout history — 3rd century BCE to 20th CE — have carried approximately 1/3 bodyweight, or 50-60 pounds, for day-long marches.

    (100 pounds was evidently used as a punishment or training regimen for Roman soldiers, and occasionally appeared later, but that size load did not become common until WWI.)

    We should consider 1/3 bodyweight all-day-long as a minimum strength standard, especially for modern men who can afford better nutrition than medieval levees.

    Far more fundamentally, weighted carrying seems to have been the impetus for bipedalism, the primary difference we observe between australopithecus and chimps.

    Weighted carrying is also a fundamentally fat-driven activity. Stored glycogen will barely get you through the first couple of hours.

    Therefore, it is not far wrong to consider weighted carrying the initial impetus for the rest of the suite of human adaptations.

    As the most fundamental human adaptation, we expect weighted carries to be the most efficient training modality.

    Military strength doesn’t come from 2-mile runs, pull-ups, or crunches — even though that is what is measured on the Army Physical Fitness Test.

    Military strength has always come from the extraordinary time under tension of weighted carrying and the posture and kinetic efficiency it teaches better than any other activity.

    This past weekend, I rucked 200 pounds with a 168 pound body for 2.5 miles over 90 minutes. Not long ago I was carrying only 40 pounds. The ability to progress this skill rapidly has surprised me.

    It now seems bizarre that the carrying weight for distance is overlooked by so many, while running empty-handed — an activity arguably much less useful to our ancestors — is near universal.

    What do you think? I’m very curious to learn from others’ experiences.

  21. This is a great list and starting point! One thing I would like to add is the importance and pure fun of play-wrestling with our kids. Wrestling in a safe and fun way where no one gets hurt is a great way to test strength. A really cool Dad or Mom will apply just the right amount of challenge and let the kids win enough to keep it fun. Five year olds LOVE to “pin” their helpless Dad or Mom occasionally. 🙂

    While I am on this soap box (extra climbing–yay) I feel strongly that the reason so many kids today hurt themselves badly with dangerous stunts is because they are that ignorant about their bodies and basic physics. They see some yahoo on a youtube video or a skilled athlete in the Olympics “take some air” and they think they can just give it a try with no previous experience. That’s a hard way to learn about gravity and physics.

    And finally: all children need to learn basic self defense and how to recognize potentially dangerous situations. I loved roaming the neighborhoods and hills when I was a kid (alone) but I think we have learned that unsupervised kids can all too easily be a target of evil people. Adults need to be that extra set of eyes and supervise at a safe distance when appropriate. It really is a jungle out there and the most dangerous animal is the human. I raised two sons and if my husband was not with me, if they were old enough to go to the men’s bathroom by themselves I literally waited until it was empty and stood guard outside until they were done. I met the parents of their friends and knew whom I trusted. No we cannot always protect them but we can be smart and reduce many potentially risky situations by being observant and trusting our gut, and helping them to learn the same skill.

  22. While my kids go to school, they have also been going to outdoors school weekly, and now that they are in grade 1 it’s down to monthly. We spend time in the forest and on rocky beaches.I feel very fortunate to be able to say that they can do everything on that list, and they do, at every opportunity..

  23. Wow. So much anti-school stuff here. As a 30 year veteran teacher in the schools I’m always amazed by the descriptions of school as places where kids sit in rows for 8 hours. The schools I worked in were never like that. Morning recess, lunch recess, afternoon recess, punctuated by classroom time moving around, sitting on the floor. Who sits in rows unable to move all day anymore? Really?
    Brainwashing! I never realized I was a brainwasher!
    Although I will say a little self-control never hurt anybody.

    1. As a kid, I remember thinking at 5 that my life as a free animal was over. Time to start serving the tribe. And we got a lot of summertime back then! . School was like being sent to prison compared to real life. A lot of unnatural demands made in the name of teaching us to fit in to the system (corporate?) for modern society. I was amazed when society started drugging children for not having attention span for the stuff they were expected to sit still and focus on. Drugs to keep them in class!

      For me keeping up with the class was easy but not stimulating. I coped with the intense boredom by sleeping at my desk as much as possible. In retrospect, I see that it was a way to leave while keeping my body legally in the chair. As a teenager, school lightened up and we had classes to move around to, but I still thought Pink Floyd’s “the wall” had a lot of truth in it.

      College was the first time I actually enjoyed learning. And I was able to sit and focus for longer then. And all this was in the 60’s,70’s.and on. Maybe some stuff has improved, but I think most of it’s worse now as society has gone deeper into much of what was heading wrong back then.

      I don’t blame teachers at all and I thank a few that really made a deep difference to me – teachers rock – , but I think it’s hard for most people, educators included, to see the water they swim in and realize that much about our modern educational system is unhealthy for the human animal.

      I did see/saw school as a necessary evil to train and indoctrinate our little ones into the tribe. Even as a child. There is always a price to pay to fit and survive within the tribe. I felt that back then and I certainly encourage our next generations to get all the way through the school slog – as it’s only worse without it. But yes, in many ways, it’s another brick in the wall.

      1. The average school truly is a prison. Students actually get LESS time outside than prisoners on average. Plus prisoners can generally use the bathroom without asking permission, go to the library and read what they choose, etc.

        The school system is fundamentally flawed. I have no plans on sending my son to school, but I know that homeschooling / unschooling isn’t an option for everyone. I would love to see coercive schooling replaced with democratic schools (Sudbury style) or just community learning centers.

        Carol Black’s essays cover the subject eloquently and in depth.
        http://carolblack.org/on-the-wildness-of-children/

        1. Traditional public and parochial schools are such a fantastic waste of life and money. I agree on completely overthrowing or abandoning them for the plethora of better alternatives. But realizing just how big a pill this must be to swallow for most people, one good start in the right direction would be to stop wasting so damn much of the kids’ time, cut their time spent in these prisons in half, and refocus schools on the only two areas that public moneys can have even a remotely reasonable justification for funding: literacy and functional math skills. (Neither of which can traditional schools today in general say they are exactly champions of.)

  24. This list is way cool. I teach primary kids, PE included, at an international school. I am going to share it with the staff as a discussion starter. Will share it with my friends with young children as well.

  25. There certainly are a lot of important life skills that kids aren’t taught in schools! This is where it’s parents’s responsibility to step in and make sure that kids grow up healthily and prepared for the world. Great article about the important of getting kids outside and moving around.

  26. When I was living in rural West Africa with my six kids I noticed amazing developments in their physical growth due to their ability to freely play as much as they could. I was shocked for how long they routinely would play hard– for about five hours a day. Way more than even the most progressive of the free play advocates advocate! An interesting result of this was that our small kids after playing like this slept so soundly. I always thought that children waking up routinely through the night was an inevitable part of parenting. I really think it is just another consequence of not playing enough.

  27. I think overpopulation is a huge issue here. kids don’t have woods and open space to recreate today. Forests are torn down for freeways and housing.

  28. Anyone else notice an inability to pay attention to surroundings? I have a lot of kids in my family and all of them would be seriously injured or dead if, say, the zombie apocalypse became a real thing. Even my 14 year old nephew has a disconnect between eyes and brain..

  29. Not my kids. They have to be involved in a sport or activity every season. Soccer, basketball, track, they can choose, but doing nothing is not a choice.

  30. I grew up doing all of these things and have continued them with my children. It always shocks me when their teachers are so impressed by their coordination and motor skills. Now I see why they are so far ahead physically. We live in Maine (where Mark Sisson grew up actually) and creek walking in particular was one of my favorite summer activities growing up. I look forward to focusing even more on their outdoor adventure skills as they get older!