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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  October 12, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

Child's play.

Gadzooks, zounds, and three-eyed gophers! I just read an article about a study conducted by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It was a pleasant read because it offered an example of the fact that common sense is slowly - ever so slowly - trying to make a comeback in our society.

As an indicator that such a comeback is happening, do remember that, not so long ago, a nearby school district actually proposed the idea of canceling recess in elementary schools.

That one lasted until the grandmother of a student in that district ever so eloquently said, "I think it’s a bunch of crap…It’s elementary school, for crying out loud."

And that was the end of that.

It’s not time to uncork the champagne yet, but I’d start making sure you still have the glasses.

Anyway, what this latest study concluded was that "what children really need is more good, old-fashioned playtime."

To which many parents would say, "Well, duh!"

Minor aside: I’d offer that a better study might have been one to determine just how many parents think otherwise. The results of that one might truly be scary.

"Go out and play."

I don’t know how many times I heard those words while I was growing up.

For my friends and I, it meant deciding on games, choosing sides, arguing rules (baseball with only one base or football with a shared quarterback required some thought), negotiating the application of those rules, and getting on with the game.

All of which was training for later years even though we didn’t know it at the time.

When we tired of the games, we’d build forts and tree houses or cut new paths through any nearby overgrown lot. When we got tired of that, we’d do something that too many kids no longer do. We’d use our imaginations.

Any trickle of water became a river needing a dam. Any pile of rocks became a site to dig for gold. An old scarf turned us into fighter pilots. If we had nothing nearby, we’d end up on our backs trying to decide what all those clouds looked like.

Today, however, too many kids are being made to do too much, too fast, too often, and in too structured an environment.

Find the fun in that.

And, if one end of the spectrum entails endlessly hurrying from one scheduled activity to another, then the other is finding kids parked in front of either the lobotomy box or a computer screen for hours on end. Imagination takes a beating in either case, but there’s a physical demon waiting for the ones who are endlessly "plugged in."

I’m going to get a raft of e-mails for what comes next, but here it is:

I wonder if anyone’s done a study on the relationship between all of that screen time and the fact that a lot of our kids are becoming "bulkaroos" instead of the "buckaroos" of earlier years. If nothing else, going outside to play was one way to ensure that calories burned forever exceeded calories consumed. We were, to coin a phrase, as skinny as rails.

"Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood," is a sentence that stands out in the report. Makes the point that childhood should be nothing more that that – the time to be a child.

Too often, we’re pushing them toward the gold ring before they know (or even care) about that ring. Trust me, they’ll get to adulthood soon enough. Scheduling all of the fun out of their lives or letting them grow roots in front of some screen is, in my opinion (and with no apology offered), purely dumb.

So, for all of you new parents out there, here are some ideas that’ve worked since just about forever:

Buy your kids a set of blocks or two. Give them board games that make them think. Shut off the computers. Pull the plug on the television. Ditch the instructional tapes. And get them out of all of the classes and scheduled activities they’re loaded down with.

If they (or, more likely, you) tire of indoor games, just say the following: "Go out and play."

Do note that the above phrase may be said in any number of tones including the ones that have the unspoken parental "or else" attached to it.

It works and, better yet, it’s the best thing for them. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says so.

But why we needed a study to tell us this is beyond me.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Simoneaux
All Rights Reserved.

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