I grew up on an awesome block. Campbell Road rocked. All of the parents were friends and all of us kids played together–manhunt until the street lights went on and snowball fights until we couldn’t feel our fingers anymore.
I used to always wander down the street to my friend Michael’s house to see if he wanted to play. However, we lived on opposite sides of the street. While standing on opposing curbs, our conversation would sound something like this:
Kerri: “Hey! You wanna play?”
Michael: “Yeah! You wanna come over?”
Kerri: “Yeah, but I can’t cross the street. You wanna come over here?”
Michael: “I can’t cross the street either.”
Hmm…what to do, what to do… I decided to march up to the porch of our elderly neighbor, Verna, ring the bell and ask her to cross me. Eureka! Problem solved (Although Verna’s problems just began because we then proceeded to do this on a daily basis).
So nowadays whenever I hear the term “play date,” I cringe. What happened to the good ole days when kids used to call each other up or knock on each other’s doors and ask, “Do you want to come out and play?” Now it’s the adults that decide who their children play with, when they’re going to do it, and what they’re going to be doing (because God forbid they become bored). All onus is taken off the children and the freedom of play becomes an administrative task of the parent. But what’s wrong with children becoming bored? Kids are imaginative and resilient creatures who will always come up with something to do. But if we don’t let them reach that point, then they are not flexing these creative muscles. The article, The Loss of Spontaneous Play From Childhood, declares that “adults have organized childhood nearly out of existence.”
So what are the ramifications of this in the classroom? In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink stresses the importance of six senses that will play a crucial role in the 21st century: Design, Story, Sympathy, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Pink highlights the mission statement of Southwest Airlines: “People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it.”
If, from the time they are little, kids are incessantly told what to do and when to do it, they are primed for that same behavior as they proceed through high school and college. And what will be the impending repercussions when these children become our future leaders? Essentially, are we preparing our kids to be innovators or followers?
Be gone with the “date.” Let the kids just play.
Image Credit: © Nueyerdua | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos