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October 11, 2006

When a study backs up what common sense tells you ...

From the DOAH files

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Here's some soothing medicine for stressed-out parents and overscheduled kids: The American Academy of Pediatrics says what children really need for healthy development is more good, old-fashioned playtime.

Many parents load their children's schedules with get-smart videos, enrichment activities and lots of classes in a drive to help them excel. The efforts often begin as early as infancy.

Spontaneous, free play -- whether it's chasing butterflies, playing with "true toys" such as blocks and dolls, or just romping on the floor with mom and dad -- often is sacrificed in the shuffle, a new academy report says. [...]

A lack of spontaneous playtime can create stress for children and parents alike. If it occurs because young children are plopped in front of get-smart videos or older children lose school recess time, it can increase risks for obesity. It may even contribute to depression for many children, the report says.

One of the serious tradeoffs in our contemporary "egalitarian" culture is the demand that even married men and women should look to their individual needs/careers first. Thus, children are either lost in the shuffle, or they become mini-me's, tiny adults shuttled from one structured activity to another so the parent can boast of his/her child's accomplishments and feel less guilty about the lack of quantity of time actually spent with the child. After all, don't French lessons, club soccer, gymnastics, et al, count for more than an hour or so in the backyard taking a trip to the moon in rocketship made from a refrigerator carton?

If you thought "yes", then go read that study again.

Children need unstructured time. Time they are responsible for to shape to their own needs and happiness. Happiness is what we make for ourselves, it doesn't come from the outside. Being happy is a skill. A child that complains "I'm bored" is a child that hasn't had enough unstructured time to learn how to handle it. Crayons, paper, scissors, glue, paint, balls, blocks, cardboard boxes, rubber bands, ribbon, buttons, paper plates, sidewalk chalk, yarn, coloring books, board games, books ....

Got that in a couple of boxes or baskets at home? Within easy reach of the kids? A few feet of dirt in the backyard they can dig in to their hearts' content?

They why should they ever be bored unless they have lost the capacity to be children?

This is something you cannot farm out. Time for you to locate a refrigerator box and show your youngster how to fly it to the moon.

You'll both be happier for it.

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Posted by Darleen at October 11, 2006 12:07 AM