Friday, February 29, 2008

The work of children is play

Here's another great piece about the importance of play for children... Is it just me or does all this cutting-edge research about play seem to be sort of intuitive? I mean, isn't the kind of play they're advocating just what children used to do naturally when they were hanging out with their parents all day on the farm? I'm no historian, in fact I'm getting most of my information from my foggy recollection of Little House on the Prairie episodes, but it seems like basically children need to be able to do the things that came naturally to kids growing up about 200 years ago: run around outside, dig in the mud, garden, take care of animals, sew, build with wood, help with cooking and take care of younger siblings. If you think about it, typical preschool centers seem to be a virtual replica of the natural habitat for children so many years ago (playground, sandbox, crafts, blocks, play kitchen and dolls).

In so many ways, it seems like we are trying to recreate a simpler time in the midst of our complicated, two-income, commuting, hyper-plugged-in lifestyles. Home-schooling is becoming a more and more popular option for parents, a raised awareness about where our food comes from has led people to seek out local farms or even try their hand at gardening. I hear that the latest trend for the uber-hip is to keep your own chickens and urban bee-keeping is on the rise.

Sometimes I fantasize about a "simpler" life. A life where my kids are free to roam, climb trees and fall into ponds when they're not helping me churn butter or sew a new frock. But then I remember the privileges of my life lived in the 21st century in the suburbs. Today it is cooooooold. Too cold for frolicking outside without serious winter gear. Our plan is to go to the mall where there is a small replica of an airport made of that squishy foamy plastic that gymnastic mats are made of. Maybe I will get a grande skim latte so that I have something to sip while I watch the kids pretend to be pilots and baggage handlers. It will be very safe and very warm and there is always the possibility of a fabulous sale and a new frock.

1 comment:

Mama Monster said...

Two great books are "Our babies Ourselves" and "Our Children Ourselves" both by Meredith Small. A survey of baby rearing and childhood in different cultures. Very illuminating as a comparison to the way our culture does these things.