Would your kids respond in the same way as these kids? Raises an interesting point...
Posted by Mike Hosking Breakfast on Sunday, July 19, 2015
And I've read countless articles, including this one on the importance of play. And for what it's worth, I am totally on board with lots of unsupervised play time. Bring it on. I vote YES for unstructured play.
My problem is that I have no idea how to do this. In my own childhood, I remember spending hours out in the evening until after dark with several neighborhood kids as I tried to figure out how to throw a football. We played foursquare and jacks on the cement pad between the pool and playground in my apartment complex. I learned how to do lots of tricks on the bars, including the penny drop which was hanging by my knees on the bar and throwing myself around and around while my head was just inches from the ground and then being able to stick a landing, all without the use of my hands. I pushed matchbox cars through sand landscapes that we had painstakingly crafted. In the hot Phoenix summers when parents wouldn't allow us inside, we would lie on the sidewalk in the shade of a building and color in coloring books. We played baseball in the open field next to our complex. We raided the laundry room looking for spare change that we could use to buy a 25 cent soda in the vending machine. We spent hours in the pool. We rode bikes. We rode skateboards. We took walks a half mile away to purchase 5 cent candy from the convenience store. We took walks a mile away to purchase 50 cent burgers at Burger King. We stayed out late playing Ghost in the Graveyard, British Bulldog and endless hours of Kick the Can. When we had parties, frozen pizza was the new thing to serve because Pizza Hut was the only other place you could even get pizza. And movies were a rare treat because most people had to rent VCRs at the same time they rented the movie!
As far as I am concerned, I played quite a bit when I was a child. But childhood is over and I don't really enjoy playing anymore. Every once in a while, I enjoy a social game. But not all the time. And I hate board games. I like organized sports with referees and rules. I don't so much like pick up games or playing with people without any skills. I don't like playing pretend.
And I remember how sad it was when Baboo was a little baby and I'd take her to the park to play and she wouldn't know what to do. She never had fun at a park. She would just kind of wander around looking bored. I knew that I didn't have the energy or the desire to play with her like that. What she needed was another kid. What she needed was a sibling!! I felt very strongly that it was time for Baboo to have a sibling. And so 9 months later, here comes Wiyah!
And for the most part, it worked. Built-in playmate for the younger years and mostly these sisters have gotten along. I kept having more and more kids and there was always someone around to play with.
But maybe technology happened in the meantime. I don't know what happened. But my kids definitely don't play anymore. First of all, it seems like the only times kids get together is when they are officially invited for "play dates". And I don't do play dates. I don't really invite people into my home at all. So play dates are usually one sided affairs. My kids love to go but I never reciprocate and so we don't get asked very frequently. It's very rare to have a random kid just how up and ask if so and so can play. Other moms express trepidation about letting their kids out to play unsupervised for all the bad things that can happen and stranger danger. I feel those things, too, and when I was my kids' age I had much more freedom than they now have.
I don't even know what to do. My kids watch too much TV and they play on the computer too much. I don't know how to get them off or what to replace it with. When they tell me that they are bored, I can't think of any ideas for them either. They never play outside and many of them refuse to walk a block or two to get to a friend's house. In previous summers I have kicked them outside for certain times of the day but they end up just sitting out there doing nothing, waiting for the time to pass until they can come back in again. If I were in there shoes, I wouldn't know what to do either. I don't know how to give them their freedom. I don't know how to instill in them some kind of creativity and playful spark. They make forts inside my house that drive me absolutely crazy. But there's no materials to make a fort with outside. And even if they did do it outside, we would tell them it makes our yard look trashy and then they'd have to put it all away so we could mow. The boys especially spend quite a bit of time reading. And reading is great, don't get me wrong. It's a completely valid way to spend time. But it is not playing.
I just do not have any idea how to implement these ideas in the culture they are growing up in. And the reality is that I also spend most of my free time on the computer. There are ideas to explore, things to read and free ways to accomplish things. For someone who hates to cook, can't create anything artistic, has no domestic skills and doesn't play an instrument, the internet offers a way for me to use my brain and my creativity to accomplish something that I couldn't do in another way.
If I could somehow figure out how to MAKE my kids play, then it wouldn't even be play. So play is something that I need to figure out how to make a space for and let them discover it for themselves.