I mean this kid has been to more places and has more toys and gadgets at age 7 than I had my entire life. He lives a charmed existence. I used to get upset and preach to him (predictably) about how “When I was a kid, I (blah blah blah’d) all day and NEVER complained!” His eyes would roll into the back of his head, and he’d eventually turn around and walk away.
Recently my wife and I have come to the somewhat terrifying realization that our son doesn’t know how to play. And it’s because he simply hasn’t had enough practice. And the culprit is a dreaded ten-letter word. ENRICHMENT. Does my seven-year-old need to be able to play soccer, take swim lessons, learn the violin, grasp programming and robotics, learn to ice skate, and learn Spanish? All right now and all at once?
It doesn’t stop with parents either. Schools today face an overwhelming pressure to overly academify (I think I just made that word up) their programs starting in pre-K. Kids need to be able to read, write, and split the atom by the time they are four. It seems that what we may be producing now is a nation of children whose every waking moment is directed by adults. That can’t be good.
What kids learn in their free play at school and at home is self-control, problem-solving, listening, taking turns, delaying gratification, sharing, respecting personal space, controlling their emotions, and other social-emotional skills. Aren’t those skills at least as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic?
Is there a correlation between the decline of play in preschoolers and the rise in sensory issues that we see with so many kids today? This blog post from pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom makes a pretty compelling case. What about a correlation in the decline of play and the rise in children’s mental disorders?
So I’ve decided it doesn’t bother me when my son says “I’m bored” anymore. In fact, I hope to hear it more often. I’ve come to the realization that play time is primary to the success of our children and that boredom is the playmate of imagination.