Friday, September 19, 2008

Children don't know how to play

An article in the New York Times has gotten me to thinking. A scary thought I know, and even scary that I read the NYTimes but it is what it is. The article, found here, talked about how kids in Houston were finding idle time hard to fill without the benefit of electricity to run their TV's, Wii's, computers and all the other electronic stuff that filled their hours when not in school. All I could think when I read that was, "How sad."

How sad that they don't know about all the fun that can be had by playing in the dirt or being outside or reading a book or just walking the neighborhood. Well, in some of those neighborhoods that might not be safe but you get my meaning.

This is often a topic of discussion with my daughters (who are almost all adults now). We have never owned a video game like Nintendo, Xbox or Wii. That was a purposeful decision on the part of us parental units. It just didn't seem like they needed any more excuses to sit around and look at a screen of some kind. They were on the computer at certain times and they had an hour of TV a day. Kids are ingenious at stretching that TV thing. They would watch their chosen program and then "conveniently" hang around in the family room doing homework while another sister watched their program. I don't think so buddy! The only reason we ever got them Gameboys was because we were going to Mexico and they needed something to do on the plane. And no we won't talk about the fact that I also have a Gameboy. That is SO not important to this discussion so just drop it.

At any rate, because the girls didn't have the chance to sit in front of the TV or computer for long periods of time they developed skills that these kids seem to, sadly, be lacking. I was constantly amazed at the things that the girls found to do outside. It did strike some fear into my heart when they came in to the house to ask for a hammer and some nails but, once I figured out that they weren't trying to crucify their younger sister then I gave them the requested items. They were building a club house out of various scavenged pieces of wood and the remnants of an old plastic play house. Inventive. Then there was the time that they figured out how to make darts with straws and toothpicks. If they didn't have school they played outside in the yard or read a book or did whatever. But they developed their ability to be creative and fill their time.

You know what it is, it is easier for the parents to plop the children down in front of some electronic babysitter. It is time consuming to find things for your kids to do. It mess with your schedule, it makes you crazy. Yes you can have the glue and consturction paper, no you can't paint in your room, no the frog can't live under your bed, yes you can make cookies, sure you can have an old spoon to dig a hole in the back yard to "plant a garden". All those things require the imput of a parent. Yes that means you. But it is so worth it.

OK, I will be done with the rant now. I just think that it is sad that these children have lost the essence of what makes a childhood so much fun. It is the playing all day, coming in all dirty and tired for dinner, a bath, a story and then bed.


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