Over the 4th of July weekend we were down in my hometown in Southern California. I spent the time helping my mother while the grandkids got to spend the time playing. They swam, they went to the park, they went to my elementary school to play in the playground. They did many of the same things that kids in town do all the time...well not modern kids but when I was a kid many years ago.
When they went to the park there weren't any other children their ages who were there without adult supervision. In fact, they were the only two kids at the park that they saw who weren't being supervised by an adult.
There weren't any kids at the school playground either of the two times they went. When they got back to great grandmothers they said they thought they would get in trouble for playing on the playground during the summer since no one else was there.
Isn't it amazing how things have changed? I sent them on an errand. They had to walk 1/2 mile to the grocery store to pick up a jar of mustard. They have never walked to the store by themselves other than to the gas station 1 1/2 miles from our house.
I suppose these types of activities are unusual and exciting for kids that live in the country. The nearest school is 5 miles away, the nearest real shopping is about 10 miles, and I have no idea where the nearest park is, perhaps 10 miles as well.
Boy got bored. He asked if he could go for a walk. Sure but take great grandmother's dog. The dog used to walk 1/2 mile a day with great grandmother before she broke her leg so the dog would be excited to get to go on a walk. The two of them departed. After about an hour, when they hadn't returned, I figured that Boy took the dog to the park. He loves going to the park. I was wrong. Another hour later the two of them arrived home. The dog drank a full bowl of water and laid on the floor panting. It took her a couple of hours before she stopped panting. Boy? He got a drink of water and then sat down to tell us about his walk.
He left great grandmothers, walked down the block, turned right, walked more, turned left, walked more turned right, walked more, turned again, etc. He proceeded to list the names of the streets and tell me the direction he turned. He took about 20 different streets, went on a dirt path, got to the back of the park, and walked back to the house. All in all he walked about 5 miles. He walked on streets he'd never even been driven on. He took a couple of visual landmarks and just headed out.
I was amazed. I was also pleased. He had no fear, no panic of not knowing where he was going, he could have completely backtracked his way home if needed. But he didn't need to. He was so aware of his surroundings that he just had a fantastic time.