I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic ever since it came up on GCM. I was shocked to see that my kids are possibly in the minority when it comes to non-toy play. In that thread, which asked what kids do if they don’t have toys, I wrote
I think my kids would do great without any toys at all. They have way more fun when it is just the two of them.
We have a LOT of dinosaur play around here. They made up this one game (which is probably played for several hours a day) where one pretends to be a certain dinosaur and the other tries to guess which one. A variation on that is for them to go off and decide what dinosaur to be and then dh or I have to guess what they are.
They absolutely adore spelling things out on the refrigerator They love to sing and dance if I put on music or they make up their own songs if not. They pretend to be animals, or pretend to be completely made-up things with made-up names. They tickle-fight and blow raspberries or play hide-and-seek They read books constantly. They will pretend with anything.
On our cross-country trip (5,000+ miles in the car with no toys), they made “toys” out of seatbelt ends, shoes, whatever! They do that around the house too – they’ll make pretend things out of pillows, their hands, socks, whatever. We have SO many toys here, but they just aren’t preferred
They also love to practice jumping and tumbling. They jump over each other or try to do headstands or whatever
Its good stuff. Its what I remember doing as a child too
As I read through the responses, I saw that many kids do not play in that way. It has really been nagging me, because I remember how much my brother and I played that way when we were little. We didn’t need things that told us how to play, we just played. Right now, as I type, my kids are downstairs playing leapfrog and pretending to be dinosaurs. Life would be so boring if they only played with toys!
I recently started reading How to Grow a Young Reader by Kathryn Lindskoog, and I’m still withholding judgement, but this section spoke to me and made me wonder if maybe some of the kids who don’t do much imaginative play just haven’t had a chance to develop the skills yet.
Author and scientist Isaac Asimov brushed aside the menace of widespread television addiction by claiming that, without television, people who watch a lot of it would be doing other things equally as empty–such as staring into space. He assumed that they would be passive even without their television sets, accomplishing nothing.
That is a radical assumption to make… in fact, people who have to do without television for a time generally resort to reading, hobbies, games, studies, longer family dinners, earlier bedtimes, and even improved sex lives, according to some reports.
I’m sure I’ll get all sorts of great google hits now that I have the phrase “improved sex lives” on here, lol.Â Seriously though, this is very true in my life, except replace the word “television” with “computer”Â ;)Â We do much better with less electronics.
Asimove seems to be considering children as basically inactive because children watch television more than any other group. But when they are not watching television, children are about the busiest people in the world. They are constantly exploring themselves and their environment, chattering, reflecting, insisting, and probably keeping at least one adult very busy. Their brains, the most complicated things on earth, are developing daily. Most of their healthy growth activity falls into one category — play. Play is child’s work.
So I am wondering now if there is some kind of correlation between the types of play that kids engage in and what they are doing during the day. I started thinking back to when my kids were watching a lot more tv (or it was at least on in the background). Back then, many of their games reflected what they watched on tv. They were not very imaginative, and when they played it was usually with toys. Of course, this doesn’t prove that the two are related, but I started thinking about it as I read.
So now I’ve been pondering whether or not passive activities (like tv or computer usage) can make the initial transition to free play more difficult. As my mind considered this thought, I came across this quote in The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs
An added benefit to less TV is, surprisingly enough, boredom. Keep reading! Boredom is especially good for children. Jerry Mander, who wrote Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, said this:
…Slowly, I’d slip into a kind of boredom that seemed awful. An anxiety went with it, and a gnawing tension in the stomach. It was exceedingly unpleasant, so unpleasant that I would eventually decide to act–to do something. I’d call a friend, I’d go outdoors. I’d go play ball. I’d read. I would do something.
Looking back, I view that time of boredom, of “nothing to do,” as the pit out of which creative action springs.
…Nowadays, however, at the onset of that uncomfortable feeling, kids usually reach for the TV switch. TV blots out both the anxiety and the creativity that might follow.
So I know what I’ll be pondering for the rest of the day (while keeping my tv and computer off)…