June 21, 2007

Child's Play

If you have kids, or know kids you care about, you should read this article in Slate today. It addresses the concept we keep bumping up against, namely, the loss of freedom in children's play.

You may not realize it, but there are legions of kids out there who are anticipating an uninterrupted summer firmly planted in front of some video game or computer screen. Bet on it. My own sons, left to their own devices, would sorely test me on this point. That is why I seldom leave them to their own devices. Their own devices are not wise, and those devices whisper into their ears "turn off the sound and she won't know you're still on the computer...". Those devices are crafty.

Of course kids don't go outside and play like they used to. We won't let them. Some stranger will steal them. And while I'll spare you the I-left-in-the-morning-and-came-home-when-the-streetlights-came-on speech, well, I did.

The article starts with two little kids discussing their school experiences, even though one is only three. It implies this is a bad thing. Bah. I bragged about going to school from the time I was 2 years old. Because my older sister went. Well, admittedly I was also a weird little kid, but I wanted to go to school as surely as the kid next door wanted to build a skateboard from my roller skates and a plank. Kids do what kids do.

Now that families have less kids, there is a huge difference in how they play and interact. Siblings entertain each other, even when they're beating the crap out of one another. Take away the numbers, the fun turns inward, or mommy and daddy have to go buy some endless line of toys specifically marketed to kids that aren't allowed to invent their own bows and arrows or pop tar bubbles with their fingers. (Nail polish remover gets that off, by the way...)

I worry that we're going to have successive generations of weenies who don't know what to do if some parent isn't telling them. The joy of getting into trouble, and then back out, is that you learn how to do it. Too many kids have a damned rope tied around their waist and can only go a few feet before they're tugged back.

I worry that in our quest for safety, we're creating children that need to be entertained in increasingly expensive ways and for extensive periods of time. Too much of the garbage on the market is an adult interpretation of what kids want to do. Hand a kid a hose, let them climb trees, leave them at a crabby little stream with a couple of dip nets, show them how to hunt for 4-leaf-clovers, let them build jumps for their bikes, teach them how to use a hammer and nails or let them build forts with old blankets. Let them plant something; let them paint something; let them win, but let them lose.

Something not working the way they planned is not a bad thing; it's a terrific thing.


Blogger aka Joe said...

You are so correct on this one. The next generation isn't learning how to deal with adversity at all, they're being coddled and over protected. This "there's no losers" doctrine being preached to our kids is ridiculous. I've been in management positions where I've had to deal with some of these younger employees who've never been told no before. They don't know how to handle it. In some cases, they throw a fit, cry and quit. Too bad.
Charles J. Sykes authored a great list of "Rules Kids Won't Learn in School." While its been attributed to Bill Gates over the years and has appeared in chain emails, it was written by Sykes, the author of "Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add." Here's the link to the list:

June 21, 2007 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because this generation, my generation now being parents has to face the horrific realities of children being murdered and raped and abused as the NORM now ..when we grew up it was nearly unheard of. Now there are environmental issues to contend with mroe so than there were, there is SO MUCH MORE to contend with..forgive me if I choose to protect my children as opposed to sending them away from me simply to force my experiences of childhood onto them.

June 21, 2007 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are so concerned with what trouble our kids may get into we forget to let them be kids. Street hockey is illegal, kids playing on school property prompt calls to the police about them trespassing! I would rather see them on school property playing basketball or riding their skateboards than out on the road breaking into cars and homes!! The best way to protect them when little is to join themin the fishing and minnow catching. Bring a good book, sit back and relax while they splash and learn!

June 22, 2007 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, April, a little research on your part would reveal that crime is down. It's reporting of it that's up. There isn't more 'rape, murder and abuse', and it's hardly the norm. We just hear more about it.

Don't get sucked into that tired old argument.

June 22, 2007 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell that to the parents of dead kids.

I'll bet they're tired of hearing that one.

June 24, 2007 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

April, don't you get tired of your own rhetoric, ever?

We do. Maybe find some other place to play. A dumber one.


June 24, 2007 5:19 PM  

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