When I was a kid, we did lots of chores and had too much to do to spend all that time watching TV and all those video games. Why do kids have to have so much time to play and just fool around?
A. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, remember that old advice? Now we can proof that saying; animal studies show that many animals play. It seems that as the species get more advanced, they play more until finally, we get the NFL and the American League! Everybody has a need to play. I have found this the most compelling argument about the human need to play: if you watch the NASA films about the moon landing, you will see both astronaughts, jumping and cavorting on the moon. They even sing as they skip around, one commenting that life is so much better when you can play like a kid; no fooling!
B. The child development researchers have painstakingly studied how we play throughout our life cycle. There are various definitions of “play” but no matter which description you use, there is agreement about the usefulness of play for human development. Early play coordinates hand and eye interaction; we see, we touch, we learn, we get smarter. Later play stimulates social skills; we played baseball games that defied all the baseball rules, but we managed and had wins and losses.
C. Play is unfortunately confused with recreation: one is necessary for the refinement of many needed skills and attitudes and the other is a needed counter balance to excessive stress. Living in Australia taught me to “ have a hit; we never played tennis. Playing is too unstructured to make a game of it. The need to play for our development is not an activity that can be used as a reward like recreation is. Getting enough play as a child is another important part of our emotional nutrition. Not only does Jack become dull, he also gets a bit weird if he and Jill can not play.
D. It is not coincidental that school recess time is getting shorter; there is a direct connection between increases in work demands and decreases in play time. Somehow we have invested more in rote achievement than in human development: it is a production mentality, made so humorously explicit by the great comic Charles Claplin when he was being ground into the giant factory wheels. And then there was “Lucy”: we can all appreciate her humor as she vainly tried to keep up with the production line at the chocolate factory. We have placed too many children and families into a production mentality. Play helps counterbalance our “productive” lives.
1. Take a Dr. Silly Break at least once a day, some small diversion from life’s requirements. With children it is easy, make a joke about something, tell them to have a seat, take a rest, put your feet up, have a cookie kid, take school of your mind for a while.
Having a more humorous outlook helps them also reduce the tension they are under from the mounting learning tasks.
2. Take a family play inventory. Are you getting enough play time; are things too hectic at your house; what diversions seem to bring your family closer together. Ask around see what you find out. Try to keep in mind that play times are usually simple and not expensive; plane reservations not required.
3. Make a family play plan; choose something to do together and try to make
it happen. If you have too, divide the activity into parts for all ages. Everybody loves to be included in family fun.
4. Become Los Incommunicados, that is, no phones, no screens, no video or electronic games, nothing that is dependent upon an electronic something.
I read a fascinating book about caricature in which there were drawn
comic faces from the old French pastime of making faces. Very funny; an
activity for the whole family.
5. and playing. I look forward to coloring again with crayons. The markers that smell are…well, they.You get it, so get going. Enjoy yourselves. Play more and live a little.