Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Play Deprivation: it's wigging me out!

I know it's low to constantly point you to the bloglet, but today I wrote such a long essay over there that my blogging finger has gone into spasm. Warning: the piece is Crabmommy at her most grave, gabbing on about stuff we are seeing an awful lot of in the media these days: about play-deprived children, about the value of recess for our school-age children, and how the scientific community accords an ever-growing health-related significance to recess, in direct contrast to the diminishing attention educators place upon it. Playtime is serious stuff, all right.

I touched on this a while back on this blog, when interviewing Nation of Wimps author and Psychology Today editor Hara Marano, who talked to us about play-deprived kids. And last month Scientific American also published an article stressing that when kiddies aren't given time to goof off, their brains and bodies wig out. Then they either become serial killers, too-compliant drones of society who can't do or think anything on their own, or at the very least, "socially maladjusted adults."

"Play deprivation" is clearly the latest buzzword(s). I hesitate to add fuel to the alarmist fires out there, which blaze brightly whenever it comes to matters of parenting and how we aren't doing it right--and how we need to freak out over something new, even if it's freaking out over freaking out, or hyper-parenting through educating ourselves on the latest research on hyper-parenting, in true hyper-parenting fashion.

Certainly there's something ironic that happens when you get super-serious about kiddie playtime. But this is a subject that, like vaccinations (see my new pro-vax button on this blog!) I feel strongly about and which I think concerns all of us, as a society of parents not just as individual parents. And it's not always so easy to access the simple things of childhood--like time and space to chill out and play like a kid should. Numerous factors conspire to make it hard for kids to get enough of it. I know. I've been there. It's not always as easy to access a simple an unstructured childhood for your children. Especially if you work. And if your kids go to traditional public schools.

Yesterday's piece in the NY Times brings the subject of free play to the forefront with the question of recess, and what it means to children's development. We whose kids are at public schools must be vigilant and take action to prevent recess from ever being denied our children for any reason whatsoever. It's up to us to stay on it with regard to our rather strangely backward education system, which somehow still has in place the sorts of teachers who think that denying recess to kids as a punishment is going to achieve some good. Seriously, I never thought I'd say this, but the longer I'm a parent the more I get why people opt to take their kids out of conventional schools. There's just so much turgid, stodgy thinking still going on in the education system.

I think I'm going to homeschool Crabkid from now on.

Bwa-ha-ha! Ri-ight. Like either of us would survive a single day in such a scenario.

Please do check out my essay or skip it and tell me if you've ever found yourself concerned about the amount of free play time your kids have in their days, both at childcare/school facilities and at home. For me it's the number one battle of my mom-life right now: finding time/space for Crabkid to play for a decent chunk of time, preferably outside, on a regular basis.

Seriously, after 4 years of daycare and school (both very structured as they tend to be), 4 years of apartment building living with no yard space and tricky climates preventing us from getting out much anyway, I'm almost ready to pull a full-on steamy Southern eternal sunshine suburban move, trade my fabby Crabhubby for an unattractive dullard with a pile of cash so I wouldn't need to work and could instead look fondly on Crabkid roams freely around our capacious garden, engaging friends real and imaginary, finding squirrels' nests in hollow trees and tended to by lovely Nanny who happily makes snacks and cleans the mud tracks when Tot comes back in. Ohhhh, life is golden and free, blissful and creative for little Crabkid, tranquil and serene for her erstwhile Crabmommy...but wait. What's that I hear? Oh, the sound of the door! Yucky new Hubby is home for the evening and I have to converse with him and look at his portly physique. So much for my fantasy. Feh!

Yowzer, Crabmommy! Another essay just came out of that poor blogging finger! And it's pretty much a paraphrase of the first. Yeesh! Enough!

Right. Over to you: What's your feeling on "play deprivation"? Sound silly or are you taking it seriously too?


The Mother said...

One of my favorite rants.

We take our children to playdates, soccer, ballet, tennis, etc.

Then we wonder why they sack out at eight and sleep in in the morning.

When they get to high school, there's student congress, charity work, debate tournaments, sports, homework.

We overstimulate our kids. We tax their brains, and then they fall apart.

Even the earliest memory research proved that downtime was a very big part of memory processing.

I do homeschool my kids, up to high school. And I encourage them not to overdo it when they get there. They may not look quite as good on paper; they may not get into those ivy leagues that require an overachiever, but they're HAPPY.

daniel kuntschik said...

I am a teacher, and we see play deprived kids daily, a lot of our students spend so much time after school being taken from karate to soccer to french, to piano, etc. that they never every play and therefore forget how to. Our school allows a 40 minute break in the middle of the morning and there are practically no rules in the playground other than not hurting eachother, however a lot of these kids take months to learn how to play, they absolutely can not come up with their own games! I find it so sad that a nine year old kid comes over to the teacher to ask when recess will be over so t hat they can go back to planned activities in the classroom!

Anonymous said...

No worries about playing and downtime around here. We have it down to a fine art.

AnnDeO said...

As a third grader my son would be punished for "bad" behavior by having to stay in for recess, we had to keep working and stressing to the teacher that this would only make the situation worse. We have always been the parents shouting, "more recess". When a new school was being built a little "green hill" that the kids played on had to be moved. One first grader drew a picture with a protest note and gave it to the demolition crew. It stated, "You are a big piece of underwear for taking away our hill". The green hill is rebuilt and still a favorite place for kids to just be kids.

Crabmommy said...

hey guys,
see my latest post for follow up on this one.
sheryl--that is so scary.
mk--had a feeling this isn't a problem chez vous!

foolery said...

We are the weirdo parents. Our kids never set foot in day care or preschool; kindergarten was their first experience in school. They have never had an organized playdate. They play quite well by themselves or together (two girls aged almost six and eight).

Part of this was by accident and part by design, but it seems to be working for us. They are in dance now, next year probably piano or singing. The plan is only one activity per school year -- finances demand it and all homework and practice get done.

So far, so good! Good topic.

geek with a laptop said...

Learned a lot from this post. So your blog is not only funny, its enlightening too!

stella's how to videos said...

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