RERUN–Micromanaging Kids at Play

Originally posted 4/4/2008
Sarah quotes AirForceWife:

A few weeks ago I read an article that summarized a study about kid play. The results of the study were ASTOUNDING. The gist of it was this:

For the last fifteen years or so, parents have been directing children’s play more and more in an effort to help them learn earlier and more easily. Action figures are no longer generic, but so specific they can’t even be kept in the same vinyl storage case. Rather than “free play” where kids interact together with a minimum of adult involvement, adults are now fully involved and moving their spawn from place to place and activity to activity without giving the kid a chance to just play.

And a lot of kids don’t know how to “just play” anymore.

The results of the study showed that in trying to help our kids this way, we were actually stunting the evolutionary adaptions that kids self-teach themselves to problem solve and interact in society. These learned behaviors are the basis for everything else a kid learns. In effect, we are giving our kids learning disabilities by trying to give them learning advantages.

Sarah also writes about her own experiences:

I am no longer teaching knitting classes, but I am still working at Michaels when they have in-store events. And my favorite thing to do is watch parents interact with their kids when they bring them in for the kid-geared free events.

One example was the day sponsored by Crayola where the kids got to try out these fancy new markers and paper. So the craft was to make a door hanger, you know, like a Keep Out sign. And it was fascinating how many parents didn’t like the way their kid was coloring or what he was doing and literally took the markers from his hands and made the hanger for him.

Related: See this post–the kids are older, but the issues are pretty much the same.

6 thoughts on “RERUN–Micromanaging Kids at Play”

  1. Bring back “free range” kids and childhood!

    My first batch of boys were raised in a safe community and I allowed them the run of the town, the creeks, the hills, the 7-11.

    With my second batch of girls, their mother insisted on driving them three blocks to school and ushering them everywhere, all against my protests and urging to let them run.

    Both batches turned out alright but I think the free range kids had more fun and a fuller childhood.

  2. I have been wasting time all this day, when I should have been working, going onto google-street view and retracing mine and my brothers’ walk home from school, the walk to the grocery store … and trying to reconstruct the three routes that we followed when we roamed the hillsides around where we lived. We had an amazing degree of freedom, on bicycle and foot,later on horseback. Reconstructed, because one of the three hillside walks (and the house we livedin then) was obliterated by the 210 freeway, and the second is truncated. Only one remains, and it’s ruined because the road is paved now, andthe hillside is fenced off.
    We’d be out there for hours and afternoons, and Mom only wanted to know that we would show upin time for supper.
    I was able to let my daughter have something of that, but we lived in essentially a gated community in Spain, and there wasn’t much in the way of brush-growm hillsides threaded with deer trails.

  3. I’d observe that this procedure is wonderful to turn out obedient, well-rounded sheep.

    It’s a byproduct of all the fear-mongering of the media regarding the “safety of our children in these AWFUL times!!”, along with a culture that treats kids as fragile eggs unable to be let alone by themselves for even an hour.

    I was a latchkey kid — single, divorced mother raising me alone… I went home from school (alone, riding my bike) at the age of 10, and had to stay indoors until my mother got home from work after 5, after which time I was allowed to go out and play in the neighborhood. Within a couple years, the “stay inside” requirement was relaxed considerably, and I was pretty much allowed to be alone on my own from about 12 onward.

    That I was a pretty well-behaved kid helped in that, as my mother didn’t really need to worry much about what I was up to. No, not perfect, there were certainly times when I went astray a bit (*usually* going along with friends’ nefarious plans, I’ll note, rather than the impetus behind the misbehavior — which the “friend” usually blamed ME for with their parents, ending that friendship for two reasons — parental disapproval of me, and my own resentment at the dishonest betrayal), but certainly not often enough, or “big” enough, to get into major trouble, or doing anything seriously wrong or out of line.

    I did break my arm when I was 12, falling off a bicycle and into a concrete curb. Probably the worst, stupid thing I ever did (clearly it could have been my neck broken rather than my arm).

    But of the clear, key things here was
    a) learning not to invite error needlessly
    b) learning how to solve my own problems without constant instruction.

    These are part of not being a good little sheep. And you can’t get either if you’re always being mommified to death.

  4. I grew up in the country, several miles from town. I roamed our farm at will, and from the time I was 12 or so could ride my bike into town or down to the local fishing spot as long as I let my folks know where I was going and when I expected to be back.

    We walked our kids to the local elementary school, but expected them to be able to walk to and from their middle school on their own (about half a mile away in different directions). We live in a quiet, moderately affluent neighborhood, but as least some parents still drove their kids to school every day, even just a couple of blocks, because they worried about them walking. Granted, we did drive them to high school – but that was close to 3 miles, some of it along a busy road with no sidewalk. And though we gave our kids lots of unstructured time, we scheduled them more rigidly – piano, gymnastics, karate, etc – than our parents had us.

    Contrast that with my in-laws’ kids in Hong Kong – by the age of 10 or 11 they were able to go all over the city by themselves, including multiple bus and train transfers. Nice, polite, kids – but much more self sufficient than the majority of our kids’ school friends.

    Granted, once US kids have their driver’s license many parents give them more freedom. And I suspect country kids still have more unsupervised time than their suburban counterparts. But it does seem that we’re more and more reluctant to let them make their own choices.

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