At the end of April I saw a tweet where a guy post­ed a video about what he, and oth­ers who had re-tweet­ed it, called ‘a baby cage’. I was aston­ished to see the words and could­n’t imag­ine what it might look like – I envi­sioned a playpen with a closed top. Or per­haps the cot (crib) that a lit­tle boy I know was zipped into each night in his first cou­ple of years! (His fam­i­ly lived in a one-bed­roomed apart­ment and obvi­ous­ly had no oth­er means to con­fine him!) Can I say that his par­ents now find him ‘hard to man­age’, he has been diag­nosed with ADD and just been expelled from his sec­ond school and he’s only five years old?

So I clicked on the link for the ‘baby cage’ slide show, the alter­nate to the video. Well would you believe it! It wasn’t a cage at all, it was sim­ply a small, very small, porch-like struc­ture out­side a win­dow — not much dif­fer­ent from the old fire escapes in most major cities in America. 

This ‘cage’ was used in Eng­land in the 1950’s and unlike a real cage it was open into the room. The out­side was cov­ered with wire so that nei­ther the baby nor the tod­dler who was with him could fall out and down to the road by acci­dent. I should add that the baby pic­tured looked what we Eng­lish would call ‘very bon­ny’, a robust healthy-look­ing baby.

This was not an impov­er­ished fam­i­ly, they must just have lived in a flat a cou­ple of storeys up.

I imme­di­ate­ly recalled the bal­cony of the old Lon­don Hos­pi­tal I was admit­ted to to have my ton­sils and ade­noids out, in the same era — I was about six years old. The bal­cony out­side our sec­ond or third floor ward was like­wise cov­ered with wire but there was free access in and out, for the ‘fresh air’ deemed so nec­es­sary for that generation.

We British fresh air fiends will go to almost any lengths to make sure young chil­dren are out­side! The win­ter after I was born in Eng­land was the cold­est on record but dur­ing those months I was put out­side in the pram! I was about six months old!

Of course you only have to read Richard Louv’s book Last Child in The Woods and you will learn about nature deficit disorder.

When­ev­er I dream about hav­ing my ide­al child­care facil­i­ty the amount of acces­si­ble out­door space is a big part of the pic­ture. Unless you have worked with young chil­dren, your own or in a facil­i­ty, and seen the vast and pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the devel­op­men­tal tra­jec­to­ry and emo­tion­al func­tion­ing of young chil­dren, even babies, who have ade­quate out­door time and space you can­not know the dif­fer­ence it makes.

Just hear­ing about a very ‘green’ local Montes­sori school that only has con­crete or arti­fi­cial grass in its small out­door space caus­es me pain! Par­tic­u­lar­ly for the lit­tle boy who left our facil­i­ty (which by then final­ly had two large out­door spaces for the chil­dren to play) just because of parental con­ve­nience. He had poor eye con­tact and strange hand motions at four months of age — he was already on my watch list!

Do a dri­ve by of any of your local day­care facil­i­ties and inspect their out­door space, I sus­pect you will find that there is lit­tle to no space for out­door play, some day­cares are even in church base­ments — yes there are one or two base­ments in Flori­da! If you find a school or day­care with out­door space work out whether or not there is free access to the out­doors for all chil­dren under five years of age. If there is no free access please find out how much time the chil­dren actu­al­ly spend out­side. In my expe­ri­ence chil­dren age three and up get approx­i­mate­ly 30 min­utes a day out­side! Close to the ‘none’ that my son had at an Amer­i­can pri­ma­ry school in the mid-1980’s!

Even a small ‘caged’ bal­cony is bet­ter than being inside all day long.