Friday, October 12, 2007

Playtime attention

In Slate, Emily Brazelon looks at playing and parental attention. In the olden days, kids either worked or during a period in the 1950s, played outside. According to some that was an era of boredom until television came along.
Kids won a burst of autonomy in the first half of the 20th century, when there were still woods and parks at hand to roam, yet fewer chores than on the farms of yore. But parental fear and suburban development slammed the door shut again. Chudacoff cites findings from a recent survey showing that after school and on the weekends, kids on average spend only one half-hour a week in unstructured play outside, compared to 14.5 hours playing inside, and 12 more hours watching television.
Apparently, that is the issue. Experts want kids outside more and getting more interactive time from parents. Parents are busy or have some other things they would like to do. A typical conversation in my household goes like this:

"Dad, what can I D-O?" (my son likes to spell)

"How about playing with some toys?"

"Can I play with some electronic toys?"

"No, how about some lego."

"Will you play with me?"

"Well, I am busy writing my blog."

"What's it about?"

"How parents don't have time to play with children."

In reading the Slate article, all this seems like just another source of guilt. I am sure there is such a thing as parental neglect but when it comes down to it, there is only so much playtime we can take. When I lie down on the couch, apparently, the lack of an indoor trampoline becomes apparent.

The real way around this is not to view it as a zero-sum game. It is possible to find activities both you and your children enjoy. Of course, there is the electronic stuff but that has its own issues. For us, it is Lego. We build Lego. And let me tell you once you break the barrier on parental enjoyment of this stuff, there is no limit to how much you can purchase. Our house is ruled by Lego and it is a good sign. (And this is our latest project).

[PS: here is a fun activity.]