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» Thursday, February 21, 2008Whatever Happened to Playtime?
James and I were listening to this story this morning on NPR: Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills.
I didn't realize The Mickey Mouse Club was the first children's program to feature a non-Christmas toy commercial, but now that I think back on it, most of the sponsors of kids' programs back then seemed to be food-oriented: breakfast cereals like Trix and Cocoa Puffs, Malt O'Meal and Maypo (okay, who remembers Marty Maypo?) or Kool-Aid or mixes for drinks like Nestle's Quik and Bosco (in Rhode Island there was also Eclipse syrups"You'll smack your lips when it's Eclipse"), plus things like Wonder Bread and Peter Pan peanut butter.
Are children today amazed to hear that we went everywhere with minimal supervision as kids? It must seem monumental and, given all the news stories about child abductions and close calls, fairly dangerous! James remembers going off on bicycles with his buddies and being away all day, with no problem as long as he was home for supper. Sometimes they bicycled many miles away from home. As an only child and a girl, I was more sheltered, but I remember just going to friends' homes or hanging out walking around the neighborhood, no cell phone to have to report in, as long as I came home at the hour specified. We climbed the big fence around the Cranston Stadium once, went to Tom's Superette in one direction or Joe's Spa in the other, played war in Billy Campanini's backyard or tag or kickball in the street in front of Penny's house, no grownups around to make rules, stick us in uniforms, make us practice. We just had fun, and we did pretend that items were other things: tree branches made great rifles, or walking sticks; a nice flexible willow branch made a great whip for playing circus, and a stick could also be a horse.
I really feel bad for kids now with all these classes and organized activities with parents butting in! If you didn't win the game, it was just a game, not going for some big championship. If we were bored we made our own fun or stayed bored.
I thought it was very funny that the sidebar to this article about kids developing self-regulation skills advised all sorts of ways that parents could direct kids to develop it. Wasn't the whole point of the story to point out that parents are doing too much of the planning and that kids needed to be left alone?