There's a great story on NPR today. My husband heard it first thing this morning and made sure I heard it on the next repeat. It's about the way most children don't play the way they used to and it's preventing them from learning how to self-egulate, an important skill. We found this affirming for our lack-of-structured-play method of parenting. We do play with our kids—I am not saying we set them off on their own with no interaction with us. But we refuse to buy the latest electronic gadgets and doo-dads, try to limit their tv time, limit outside activities (like camps and lessons), and offer them imaginative play toys. Like dolls. Our girls come up with elaborate plots and themes with (or without) their dolls. Some people might think it odd that my older daughter, Emma, at the ripe old age of nine still even plays with her dolls. I encourage it because it feeds her imagination. Even though her wild imagination has gotten her into trouble at times, I'd much rather go through those growing pains with her than not have helped her to have this wonderful inner life that will get her through life in a more enriching way. Our summers, for example, are not spent rushing from camp to camp. Even if I had the money for it, I would not go for all the summer running I see some of my friends endure. I also am not one to set up play dates a lot because I really enjoy my kids and especially in the summer when there's no school work, we enjoy kicking back together. Play dates are wonderful-I am not saying we never do them. It's good for kids to play with other kids, visit other families, and so on. This year, we've met a family whose imaginative play ranks with our own and even though there some age differences, they all enjoy one another's company. In fact, we know several families like this. And recently we had a a birthday party during which I tired to impose some structure on these children and guess what...the day was just too beautiful to stay inside and watch a movie. They ended up in our backyard, tossing balls, chasing one another, and digging in the dirt. Nobody could deny that was much better for all.
Check out the NPR story.