April 03, 2008

FREE PLAY

AirForceWife wrote the following recently:

A few weeks ago I read an article that summarized a study about kid play. The results of the study were ASTOUNDING. The gist of it was this:

For the last fifteen years or so, parents have been directing children's play more and more in an effort to help them learn earlier and more easily. Action figures are no longer generic, but so specific they can't even be kept in the same vinyl storage case. Rather than "free play" where kids interact together with a minimum of adult involvement, adults are now fully involved and moving their spawn from place to place and activity to activity without giving the kid a chance to just play.

And a lot of kids don't know how to "just play" anymore.

The results of the study showed that in trying to help our kids this way, we were actually stunting the evolutionary adaptions that kids self-teach themselves to problem solve and interact in society. These learned behaviors are the basis for everything else a kid learns. In effect, we are giving our kids learning disabilities by trying to give them learning advantages.

I am no longer teaching knitting classes, but I am still working at Michaels when they have in-store events. And my favorite thing to do is watch parents interact with their kids when they bring them in for the kid-geared free events.

One example was the day sponsored by Crayola where the kids got to try out these fancy new markers and paper. So the craft was to make a door hanger, you know, like a Keep Out sign. And it was fascinating how many parents didn't like the way their kid was coloring or what he was doing and literally took the markers from his hands and made the hanger for him.

Yeah, little kids color like crap. The door hanger will not have their name and a fancy drawing of a cat if the kid is 3 years old. But if he just wants to take one marker of every color and draw a mess of squiggles, why not? It doesn't hurt anything, and it sure doesn't teach the kid any skills when you take the marker away from him and do the craft yourself.

At the play-doh section, I saw one parent tell her kid his thing was ugly. And she was right, it was ugly. But dang. She made him re-do it.

I think this is related to the idea of "free play." One thing that I have learned from watching all this parent-child interaction is that I will have to remind myself someday to let my kid put whatever he wants on his door hanger. And not do it for him. No matter how ugly it is.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:34 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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1 #3 made me a necklace of beads (she used my expensive ones) for my birthday. It's hideous. But I wore it anyway. And smiled. She and The Boy made it behind my back when they thought I wasn't paying attention. Cleaning up the beads they left behind made it kind of obvious what was going on, but it was so funny and sweet that they were trying! I think a lot of the parent problem with directing kids making door hangers has to do with the fact that they are around other people and conditioned to the thought that we all have to have little prodigies. If they did these things at home more often, the kids might have more chance to express themselves without being directed. Or, maybe they should just give their sons mohawks and teach them to yell, "Gernomino!", which makes the kid stand out sufficiently enough to make them a little less subject to the whole group dynamic pressure. Or maybe I just scare people.

Posted by: airforcewife at April 03, 2008 11:40 AM (mIbWn)

2 From door hangers to school projects. My kids definitely turn in their own work, even though it is hard for me to step back sometimes and not say a word. I sure don't want to have to go to college with them because they can't do things themselves! When my oldest was little and in Gymboree, she was 2 and she and her little friend were the only ones that weren't in freaking golf lessons! The other Dad was a golf pro too, but he didn't see the point in it and neither did I. Oh well, so I am not raising a Tiger Woods, but my kids certainly don't lack in creativity! One thing I will definitely do as a teacher is to nurture the spirit. I see too many kids during my observation hours that are beat down and told horrible thingsat home and then always think the things that they do are not good enough and want to give up. Maybe...hopefully...I am determined to make a difference. Pretty soon Gunner's hooch will be decorated in early childhood scribble and I know he will love all of them.

Posted by: Army Blogger Wife at April 03, 2008 12:17 PM (Y3JJK)

3 This reminds me of that chain email that was purportedly from Paul Harvey (but was a hoax, but I still liked the message): We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. http://cluestick.info/hoax/Paul_Harvey_Riddle.htm

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at April 03, 2008 01:43 PM (U2RJu)

4 I always thought that when you're a parent, everything your kid makes is a work of art. Not so?

Posted by: Green at April 03, 2008 02:09 PM (6Co0L)

5 My SIL is like this. The kids play all these sports and never have time to do things on their own. It's sad. And she's always making fun of the projects they do in school. I don't see the point of that. Allowing them to suck at stuff gives them the skills and practice they need to get better.

Posted by: Ann M. at April 03, 2008 03:25 PM (HFUBt)

6 I think too many parents obsess about credentials and "skills," while ignoring *metaskills*...or what used to be called "character." It doesn't matter how good your grades are, or how many extracurriculars you were in...once you get out into the world, if you can't take initiative and make decisions for yourself...if you can't bounce back from a disappointment...it's unlikely that you're going to be very successful.

Posted by: david foster at April 03, 2008 05:15 PM (ke+yX)

7 Moderation is the key. Let them do stuff on their own and every once in a while stick your nose in and teach them how to do it a little better. I don't know if I was any good at it when my kids were small. You'd have to ask them now that they're grown up. I was too tired to hover (hovering is a hell of a lot of work). LOL. They did much playing on their own. I will never forget one of the mothers I knew who was a "hoverer". She would listen at the door of her daughter's room to see if everyone was getting along. I asked her what she was doing... when she told me I said - leave them be, they can work out their own problems. She said "but if there's a fight I want to settle it fairly". I said, "Oh hell no, if they fight and come to me to settle it - everyone is in trouble... that makes them work at it harder next time." I believe she thought I was insane. LOL.

Posted by: Teresa at April 03, 2008 05:17 PM (rVIv9)

8 It is hard to let your kids do it themselves. My husband is way better at this and has helped me. Even with the everyday stuff. As soon as the girls could walk, he had them walk as much as possible. Get out of the car, they walk to the door. Go to the grocery store - once we are inside, walk down the isles with us. It made things slower and sometimes it would have been easier to pick them up and go. But now they are both excellent walkers!!!!

Posted by: Amy at April 04, 2008 06:47 AM (x3nWw)

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