Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kids Need Play, Not Commercialization

We're beginning to realize that playing is important for kids. It develops their imagination, their creativity, and now, something they call "self-regulation." A story on NPR's Morning Edition reports that something momentous happened in 1955 that no one really noticed: Companies started massive advertising for kids' toys. Since then, kids' play has become more and more involved with "things" instead of imagination.

Further, because of parents concern about safety, kids have less chance to roam freely. And finally, with our concern about achievement, both parents and teachers spend time trying to build cognitive skills so the kids can go to top colleges. Even the schools have cut back on recess to have time to prepare for all the tests.

To put it simply, psychologists have discovered that when kids don't play and build "self-regulation" -- the ability to learn from and control their emotions -- they have less self-discipline, less ability to pursue their goals.

The moral of the story is "Bring play back." This seems to be very important. But how will we adults react? "OK, you kids, I want you to spend the next hour playing, or you'll never get into Stanford." And if the kids are playing, the grownups can catch up on their work!

Obviously, unless adults learn to play, or experience leisure, the kids are not going to learn it. Kids learn from what their parents are doing. Leisure often looks like you're doing nothing in particular. Can adults still do that?

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