I recently came across an article by Merete Kropp in which she elaborates on how parents often stifle children’s ability to play. One of the four cornerstones to college success for the “toddler – 6th grader parent” is that of humor. This is an experience and a perspective that we need to cultivate. “Keeping play alive” is not an easy task. Ms. Kropp provides six thought-provoking observations that can give us reason to ponder on how we might be making genuine play more difficult. Here are two:
Ms. Kropp points out: “We schedule everything related to play.” She observes how parents keep their kids hopping from one play activity to the next. It is as if play time is on a to-do list that needs to be checked off.
When I listen to parents of younger kids they feel obligated to drive their kidsfrom one place to the next, partly in the hope that they will be entertained and have fun. That is not all wrong. Yet there is something to be said about allowing a child enough time and space so they can spontaneously play, without having it programmed into their day.
A second observation that Ms. Kropp makes is that parents “provide scripts and instructions” on how to play. She went on to say that movies provide a script in which kids often know by heart. Ms. Kropp raises the question: Just how creative of play is that?!
A few weeks ago two nephews were over as their parents went on a date night. We were watching Ice Age and they could hardly wait for their favorite lines to come. And when they arrived, the boys chimed in full-heartily! Of course there is nothing wrong with this. It is, nonetheless, pre-scripted for them.
Here is the link for the entire article by Merete Kropp: Nurturance
I think it was a lot easier growing up on a farm 40-50 years ago with regards to having a sense of pure play. My parents just said: “go outside and play” and out we went. Every farm kid did that. We built treehouses and swings and forts… We had ample space and time to run around and burn-up energy. Today this might not be as easy – especially when living in a city.
Years ago a classmate of mine shared his favorite Martin Buber quote: “Der Mensch is nur ganz Mensch beim Spielen.” This translates to: A human is only an entire human when playing.” When we observe ourselves and our children, there is something wonderfully liberating about being in the moment when we find ourselves at play.
College admissions are looking for that well-rounded personality. Developing a healthy sense of humor – in this regards an ability to play – helps us, l believe, later on to smile and be more confident. It balances out the ever-present and often dominating forces of drive and ambition that surround us.
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