A child that does not play is not a child. But the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.
My son came home indignant about a discussion in his literature class this week. His book cited a study that compared his age group from 1981 and 1997. In that time, students spent 18 percent more time in school, 145 percent more time doing school work and only 11 hours of play time per week. In a more recent study published by the National Wildlife Federation, children now spend less than seven minutes a day in unstructured play, but seven hours each day in front of a screen.
All believable statistics in our home (except the TV/computer part). Last Spring, my son left for school at 7:20 am. Three nights a week, he got home at 6:30 after baseball practice. Two nights a week, he got home after 10 p.m. after scuba diving lessons. After dinner and homework, there wasn’t even time for mindless TV, much less family time or a bike ride with friends. Between dance, gymnastics and swimming lessons, my preschooler is headed down the same road.
Did you know there is a Museum of Play? It is in Rochester New York and it is run by the same people who publish the American Journal of Play . If you go, you can also see the Toy Hall of Fame and the International Center for Electronic Games all in the same complex. They are all about the preservation and promotion of the simple act of play.
The American Journal of Play was cited in an article in The Atlantic about the obvious benefits to unstructured free time. Play allows children the opportunity to identify their interests, use their imaginations, make friends and solve problems. Play is a source of happiness. Not surprisingly, as playtime has steadily declined, suicide rates have gone up, so have prescriptions for depressed and anxious kids.
If our kids are always supervised and always busy, what does that say about us? On top of scheduling and chauffeuring for our highly structured children's lives, many parents are juggling demanding careers and trying to find a rare moment with their spouse. The big dreamers may even try to squeeze in a decadent day to themselves once in a while.
The idea behind Time Travel Tuesday on this blog was to schedule time for play for myself. I was too overbooked this past Tuesday to goof off. But there is always today. Today, I will do nothing. Today, my kids will do nothing until they are so bored they find something to do. Maybe I will even kick them out....into the fenced and locked backyard of course.
Do you schedule free time for yourself? What about for your kids?