Kids today are suffering from a serious play deficit, The New York Times reports. With everything going on in the world, that might not seem like the most pressing problem, but according to the Times there’s some serious brain development going on when kids build sofa forts, play tag or pretend to be princess-ninja-monkey cats. Who can fly. And also shoot bad guys.
Children learn to control their impulses through games like Simon Says, play advocates believe, and they learn to solve problems, negotiate, think creatively and work as a team when they dig together in a sandbox or build a fort with sofa cushions.
What doesn’t count as play? Video games, adult-organized activities like soccer and ballet, and “educational” toys that sing the alphabet in English and Spanish at the push of the button. No, we’re talking silly, chaotic, down-and-dirty play. That’s what experts say kids need, and while some parents are leading the charge, others are hesitant – afraid, perhaps, to give their kids the space and freedom they need to truly play. And maybe kids these days don’t know how to play games that don’t come with an iPhone app?
A group called Play for Tomorrow has produced a 75-page “Playbook” with suggestions for kids like “Climb on the couch with your friends and pretend you are sailing on a ship to a distant land,” and “Make paper doll cutouts from old newspapers and magazines.” Great ideas… but isn’t it kind of sad we need an instruction manual to let kids use their imaginations?
The best part of The New York Times article: All the parents interviewed who encourage imaginative play cop to having messy houses. Letting kids’ imaginations run wild means sacrificing a certain amount of order, it seems. A dirtier house, and happier kids? Sounds like a good tradeoff.
What do you think of the article? Do your kids get enough unsupervised play time? What do they like to play? How do you encourage them to play?