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Play is under siege?

Kids need more time to play, a story in Time Magazine suggests. It's hard to grasp sometimes, but the Good Old Days of our Ancestors really did have much to teach us. There are so many modern ways which threaten happy prospects: Fattening Commercial Tv watching and Too Few Family Meals, Gun Violence, Sports Injuries, Over Organized Schedules for Kids, not to mention ubiquitous and atonal music - that it's refreshing to see that thinkers are looking back to better times, when play was play and so much better for kids and society.

By Ed Waggener
A bit of thinking at random, during playtime and a moment of indolence

There's a story online which sparked this rant. It's What the pygmies can teach us about childrearing which offers some interesting insight on what we can learn from our the ways of our hunter/gatherer forebears and other cultures. It focuses on play.

There's a lot to be said for the advantages of freedom to play. Remember the inventive games we had 40, 50, 60 years ago? Softball with a cat for third base and the alpha kid as player, coach, and referee? When the imagination was the theatre? When the panorama was gazing out the window with no one shouting "It's time for soccer?" When games were played with peers and no spectators, just for the sake of playing. There really was something there, there - back then.

Our forebears were a hunter/gatherering society on Jamestown Hill 60-70 years ago. And all of us had plenty of play time.

Organizing what needn't be organized - play, so often, for instance is silly.

In the cult series, Portlandia, there's a skit on organized Hide and Seek Leagues at a local library - complete with coaches, stats, local color. Remember when Hide and Seek was fun? And taught valuable lessons? Without adult organization and micro management.

Funny how old Reader's Digest anecdotes stick in one's mind. One about over organization was posted back in the 1950s. When early adopters of VW beetles were producing all the Smugness for VW owners. To paraphrase, a German professor teaching in America was invited to join the "Volkswagen Club."

"Vat?" he asked. The caller explained, "You own a Volkswagen, don't you? This is a club for Volkswagen owners." Didn't sway the German. The professor said, "Ja, but I also own a toot'brush and I'm not a member of a Toot'brush Club."

Maybe degrees ought to be offered for how much one has really done, not on merit badges, memberships, and Peer Cheer awards. Maybe actually writing a book means more than Book Club membership. Maybe actually creating an enterprise is more important, for a mentor, than having passed a course of study or being given a degree should gain more respect than the wallpaper. Putting that in religious terms in the life of the most important figure ever: Just how big was Jesus' trophy room? How many gold stars were on his forward? How many times did he make Most Valuable Preacher? And didn't he have a pretty long period when his life was, seemingly lying fallow? When was he over organized?

Give kids back the time to play. Put Tippy back as third base. Have more upstairs windows where kids can spend hours just looking and thinking and creating their own ideas.

Of course, Moms who were always there to just listen may be a luxury only I had with my best Mother ever. Her main role was never to organize our play - just to look out occasionally or shout, "You Wh-o-o-o!" when it was time for supper. Didn't have cell phones then.

But that, and unorganized play, a few responsibilities, and an upstairs window for long times just looking and imagining, playing with 'adult' supervision only a two year older smartest kid in the neighborhood, like we had growing up on Jamestown Hill, is something I wish every child could have.

Philosophers, poets and others have written on this, often under a variation of "The Importance of indolence," which fits with a major tenet of mine, "Not doing work which ought not be did," so it's a comforting to see that new thought on play fully fits my notions, my worldview. - EW

This story was posted on 2013-02-04 03:30:56
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