We were putting together an article about ‘The Importance of Free Play’ for the March issue. The irony struck me – play is supposed to be ‘free time’ for a child!! But my evening walk around the apartment complex where I live reassured me that the choice of topic for the article is well justified. Here is what I saw:
(1) A bunch of 5-9 year olds in martial arts ‘uniform’, with a stern-looking ‘sir’
(2) Plenty of 4-10 year olds taking over the basket ball court, kitted out in roller skating gear with anxious mammas who had taken up positions around the ‘rink’
(3) A hassled mommy rushing her 3 and 6 year olds to ‘drawing class'; they were running late!
(4) A father with his two young boys on the lawns, instructing them on the nuances of soccer
(5) A group of 5-year old boys huddled together – ah! perhaps they are planning a game? No, sadly, they are checking out one boy’s latest acquisition, a hand held video game
(6) I did not see them, but I am sure there were plenty of kids indoors, engrossed in TV, tablets and other electronic stuff, especially given the nip in the air because of winter.
There were barely a handful of children in the play area – these were the minority who were building sand castles, playing tag, hide and seek and so on. Before I could rejoice that here were the living examples of free play, I heard those voices of well-meaning grannies, maids and mothers.
“Be Careful. You will fall”
“Don’t run so fast”
” That is not how you build a moat. Give that to me. See. This is how you do it.”
” How many times will you play hide and seek. Come here, I will teach you a new game”
And so on.
So, here are the children, with a much-needed breather, between their various classes, activities and electronics, but there is always the helpful adult to throw a spanner in the works.
Why are we adults so demanding? Why is it that we want every second of the child’s waking time to be accounted for, measured against parameters of what was done, what was learnt and what was obtained. And, is our over protectiveness simply just another sign of our need for control?
No wonder we have rebelliousness setting in children much earlier than adolescence. Perhaps that is what happens when we snatch freedom from our children’s play.