When did we forget how to play with kids?
When did we forget how to play?
The first badguy that will come to most peoples' minds is "TV" or "computers". I agree, but possibly not for the same reason. Those things are a time drain, to be sure, but the time drain on family time started a lot earlier than the invention of television.
The Industrial Revolution took fathers out of the home. Fathers who worked 16 hours a day in a factory had precious little time left over for being fathers to their children, let alone playing with them.
The Compulsory School Movement took children out of the home (and therefore away from mothers, siblings, and extended family) for a large swath of the day. So children had far less time to spend with parents, whether playing or working productively in the home.
And finally, since nobody else was home and invention after invention of time saving devices gradually took away any meaningful work done in the home by women, women finally left home, too. Went to work at a job to get their own paychecks instead of living off somebody else's. Irrational consumerism drove that change much faster. Heck--people had to go and get two or three jobs just to pay for their lifestyles.
Not much time for making clover necklaces.
Not that these changes in where people spend most of their time has changed peoples' basic instinct to do right by their kids. No-- I think most parents are as conscientious as parents have ever been. Today's parents, in fact, have access to a dizzying amount of information about how to raise children well from battalions of experts in child psychology, early childhood education, pediatricians, and ronin grandmas. Really, we ought to be the best parents the world has ever seen given how much research and advice is available to us.
When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I remember clearly looking at catalogue after catalogue of baby goods and feeling... overwhelmed. Desperate, even-- I knew we couldn't buy all that stuff. Living in a rabbit hutch apartment in Tokyo and my husband going back to school to get his master's--well, if I could only get a couple of things, which things? Every toy, chair, rattle and spoon these days is marketed as having been carefully created and tested according to the latest research in neuroscience...or child development...or early childhood education...or all of them. So if I don't buy *this* "educational" play mat/mobile/spit-up rag then.... then.... I'm...I'm...[wail!] ...a bad mommy!
I have no idea, really, whether today's toys and baby goods are actually marketed in such Machialvellian fashion, or whether the type of marketing now prevalent is due to more Darwinian market forces.
So why does everybody buy the huge $120 plastic (with highly contrasting colors and textures, because research has shown... stop that) educational (it was designed specifically for the needs of your 6-month-old, so you'll have to throw it away in three months) play mat/walker/bouncy chair/piano/busy box.... only to watch their child spend hours playing inside the big cardboard box the thing came in.
Our Leappad gathers dust, whereas every decent-sized cardboard box that comes from Nana gets played with till it falls to bits.
Smack! I knew that. So what happens to my self-confidence when I walk into a Baby Store, or a Toys-R-Us, or a Wal-Mart, for that matter?
Does anybody else want to remember how to play?
I do. The biggest shock for me as a new parent (of course, I had read everything--and therefore thought I knew, well, something anyway) was watching Japanese mothers with their kids. And fathers. And grandparents. And strangers on trains. They all played with their kids in such a...completely natural way. As though they had never forgotten how. I watched them play with their fingers, with string, with mud, with flowers and leaves... and I started learning, and sometimes remembering.
Here's how to make a necklace ( bracelet or crown or whatever) of clover. The little white variety works just fine.
That's it-- lay one clover crosswise over the other one, wrap the stem around and down, repeat (wrapping the next clover around both stems). As soon as it warms up, and the clovers come out, I hope you take all afternoon to make enough necklaces and crowns for Marie Antoinette *and* Mary Queen of Scots, and still have some left for tomorrow.
Mata asobou, ne! (let's play again, 'kay!)