There is something to be said of settling in the middle. I don’t buy in to the nostalgia of how great it was in the 1960’s where every mom was home and kids were out all day playing, only coming in for dinner.
But I was a kid that experienced that kind of childhood, which was the greatest childhood in history. Not opinion but fact.
People had more kids (baby boomers are those born in 1946 to 1964) so there were more kids around. More kids around means more opportunity to play.
Then in 1964, 40% of the population was under the age of nineteen which created the opportunity/explosion of marketing to and for children. Before all the toys, books, entertainment and activities, kids entertained themselves.
The biggest challenge we face today is a child’s lack of ability to play
I’m talking about the kind of play that is non-supervised, no fees or uniforms involved, where the kids themselves figure out what they’re going to play today. The kind of play where kids get so dirty, at the end of the day the bath water is black, and they go right to sleep because they are exhausted from having fun.
That doesn’t happen anymore. Why?
We are afraid
Instead of locking up the bad guys, we lock up our children and keep them inside and in front of electronics. This holds back their ability to move and play, and argue and make up, and be friends again. It is important to be cautious, and be careful, but don’t be afraid.
We are competitive
We put them in every kind of summer camp that will help improve their math scores, reading scores and batting average. So not only are there fewer children these days, but the ones that are around are not available to play because they are scheduled.
We are overwhelmed
We have so much to do, that we put our kids in front of electronics as a means of babysitting and/or entertainment to give us time to get tasks done. Include them in the tasks, because they are part of a family, and that should be cooperative.
We are Julie the Cruise Director
We fill their lives with activities and events, so there is no time for boredom. Boredom is good, as Mr. Rogers famously said, “You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.”
What can you do right now so the pendulum swings back more toward the middle?
Notice I’m not suggesting that we go to the 1960’s. I believe the sweet spot is in the middle. Life is different today and many moms need to, or choose to work, and having a choice is a good thing. The electronics are not bad, and in fact teach our children interesting things that take them to incredible places. It is the moderation that we need to better manage and focus on free play, because we are not doing much of that at all.
- Can you get the ball rolling with some unstructured evening activities?
- Is there a community basketball court?
- Can you get your kids to organize a baseball game?
- Can they have a marathon board game event?
- Break the record for the most hula hoop players?
- Are they able to do any of these things without adult intervention?
- And parents, instead of sitting in those sports chairs that have a holder for a cold beverage, get moving yourself! Bring a bocce game or bean bag toss and play with the big kids, aka the adults.
- Take up a community cause to help other children. There is no feeling as wonderful as helping someone else.
The best way to begin is to run the idea by your kids, and ask them what they think. Get them to organize it, and then when you get enough momentum, be a voice in your community. If it takes off, ask the school to open the gym on Friday nights for Family Game Nights in the fall.
Then, we can get back to the best part of the 60’s – the village that we all so desperately need and miss.
“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”
― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
Have a great week!
Tina Nocera, Founder
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