I have very fond memories growing up in Australia. We (my mum, dad, sister, brother, and I) lived on a 30-acre goat farm, which wasn’t too far from where our cousins and grandparents lived on a dairy farm. When we weren’t at school, calisthenics, or netball classes, we were having play dates with friends, trying to perfect the timing of taping our favorite songs onto cassette tapes, playing dress-up, doing arts and crafts, playing with the doll house my dad hand-built for my sister and I, or running around outside on the farm building forts and playing hide and go seek. Aside from one small wood-framed television there were no other electronics … no iPads, laptops, desktops, cell phones, or video games.
I have three children now, and they are growing up in a completely different world than I did. One that seems to be centered around technology. Although we do still organize most play dates from the carpool line, or get together with neighborhood friends a few times a week, the girls are often creating music videos using an app, and the boys are playing video games.
I do encourage a lot of creative play in our home though. As I’m typing this post, my daughter has two friends over playing because they had their yearbook committee meeting after school and they all wanted to come to our house afterward. The girls are currently playing a game of tug-of-war and tag around the house. Hearing the laughter and watching them run around makes me so happy.
We also have a craft room that is full of supplies that the kids often use, a puppet theater, dress-ups and wooden IKEA easels in the playroom for lots of role-play fun. Because no matter how much technology has entered our lives, I still want them to realize that creativity matters, that role play matters, and I want them to experience a little of how I grew up. And you know what, whenever they put those electronics down and let their creativity take over, they have so much fun. That’s not to say that I would ever ban electronics in our home, but I certainly do limit them.
Yes they can build towns, and read books, and even play online with their school and neighborhood friends, but I feel that should never replace (just supplement) face-to-face time with friends, turning pages of a book, and building a real fort, and playing board games and puzzles with others where you can have discussions, and snacks, and laugh and socialize at the same time.
Sadly though, not every child has the chance (or the right) to play like I did growing up, or like my children do now. Millions of children are vulnerable to discrimination, violence, abuse, and exploitation. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Children states though that every child should have the right to play. And IKEA
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