Just Go Play!

My almost 9 year old, Buster, had a few free minutes before school this morning. He chose to spend his time playing the computer. By the time we left for the bus, he was irritable, snappy and frustrated because the computer "wasn't working". My kids have limited "screen time" and we had quite a structured summer, and still I noticed, that during "no screen" free time, they had a really hard time figuring out what to do. Without the guidance of directions and a screen, they were at a loss of exactly how to spend their time. It took encouragement and threats of locking the door to keep them in the backyard (which is quite spacious with lots of play structures and toys). They'd come in "bored" after only a few minuted of bike riding or shooting hoops. I offered them all kinds of fun activities (board games, legos, cleaning toilets, etc) but they refused to get engaged without threats of bodily harm. Sometimes we need to use a screen to babysit for us so we can get a few things done, but I've noticed that generally I pay for that because the time ends in screaming fights and ornery kids.

I think somewhere in this world of DS's, Wii's, xbox's, computers, ipods and cell phones, our kids have missed out on good, imaginative play. They haven't learned how to problem solve and think for themselves; lessons that are vital to their happiness now and as adults. They are too busy with piano, soccer, basketball and swim lessons (all adult structured activities) to help in the family's garden or spend an afternoon raking leaves. They don't know how to make change and pay cash for purchases (and be fiscally responsible) because everything is paid for with plastic. They don't know how to solve their own boredom. In short, they've missed out on the most important lesson they should have learned while being kids: how to think for themselves. I read one article that said, "[Children] are overseen, supervised, directed and micromanaged from morning until night by well-intentioned adults who claim to care about children but seem to know nothing about childhood. And so, the variable most lacking in the lives of children who currently live in the Land of the Free is freedom itself."

So, its that time of year again when I am getting into my Christmas planning mode and I am at a total loss. I don't want to buy another game system. I would rather not buy anything electronic. I want to give my kids things they will play with and think about, but I don't know where to start. (Which is probably why society is in this mess.) I would love to get them some models to build or help them find things to collect and explore. I've done this in the past and its always flopped. They never played with the toys. So, I'm asking you. How do we help our children become children again?

Whaddya think?

1 comment:

  1. I wrote a long comment and it deleted, so here's a short summary. Unplug the TV except for one or two days a week. Same with the computers and DS and everything. I get as much accomplished without TV, if not more. I cheat when the kids are in bed.

    For Christmas, get them extra classes or a membership somewhere. They don't have a trampoline yet, do they?