The "Lost Art" of Play
A report out last week claimed that playing with kids is becoming a “lost art” for parents.
On the one hand, as a former parent governor at an inner city school, I know there is a growing problem with children being admitted to primary schools with fewer and fewer social skills.
One head teacher told me that she had noticed a trend in children aged four coming into school who could not speak a full sentence or indulge in any form of imaginative play. This certainly suggests that their parents are not doing much to engage with them.
Imaginative play is what we surely most associate with young children. The pre-school years are awash with tooth fairies, Santa Claus and countless other magical stories that children love to live out in their play.
My two youngest children, for example, seem to live in a parallel world most of the time where they are on pirate ships, scaling mountains or piloting planes through outer space.
At the other end of the spectrum are the hyper parents who bombard their kids with Baby Einstein from birth [they apparently need more stimulation than just living in the modern world can provide] and ferry them to endless activities all day long, terrified their children will fall behind even at age one.
In the middle are the rest of us, feeling endlessly guilty as report after report is published telling us how we are failing our children. Our reaction to the latest report is to throw ourselves into a round of Wizard of Oz or hide and seek, feeling somehow we are depriving our children of the gilded youth we once had with our parents.
But I wonder sometimes if we are kidding ourselves that there was ever some parental Eden where our mums and dads were playing games with us all day long. As far as I recall, most parents in the old days were happy to leave the kids to play with their friends rather than being their main playmate.
Surely it is good to encourage children to play with their peers rather than become overly dependent on their parents for play, isn't it? I agree, though, that there is a happy medium. We need to engage with our children, but not seek to relive our own preferred childhood through them.