Article re-posted from Health Day. All rights reserved by Health Day and author Jenifer Goodwin.
Less Play Time = More Troubled Kids, Experts Say
Adult interference may deprive children of needed challenges, not to mention fun
September 22, 2011
By Jenifer Goodwin HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) —
From hide-and-seek to tearing around the neighborhood with friends, playing is one of the hallmarks of childhood. But in this era of hyper-vigilant parenting, researchers find that children in the United States have far less time to play than kids of 50 years ago, a trend that may have serious consequences for their development and mental health.
“Into the 1950s, children were free to play a good part of their childhood. If you stayed in your house around your mom, she’d say ‘go out and play.’ The natural place for a kid was outside,” said Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College.
“Today, it’s quite the opposite. Parents are not allowing kids the freedom to play. And even if they do, there are no other kids out there to play with, or the mother may have such restrictions on the child, such as ‘you can’t go out of the yard’ that the kids don’t want to stay out there,” added Gray.
When kids are allowed to play, they make up games, negotiate rules and make sure others are playing fair. All of that helps to teach children how to make decisions, to solve problems and gain self-control. Children who have too many emotional outbursts or who insist on getting their way too often quickly learn they need to change their behavior if they want to continue to be welcomed into the group, Gray said.
Through free play, “they are acquiring the basic competencies we ultimately need to become adults,” said Gray, author of two studies published recently in the American Journal of Play. But since the mid-1950s, adults have played an increasingly larger role in their children’s activities, to the detriment of their kids’ mental health, Gray said. And, playing organized sports with a coach or other adult directing the activity doesn’t replace “free” play that’s directed by kids, he noted.
Research suggests that today’s children are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness and narcissism, all of which coincides with a decrease in play and more monitoring and managing of children’s activities by parents, he wrote in this special journal issue devoted to the decline in free play.
For boys, in particular, rough-and-tumble play helps teach emotional regulation, said Peter LaFreniere, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Maine, in a separate article. Boys learn that if they want to keep their friend, they can’t let things go too far or truly hurt the other child — a skill that helps boys grow into men who keep aggression and anger in check, LaFreniere said.
“It’s better to make the mistakes when you’re 4,” he said. “Children learn there are consequences to their actions; they learn to regulate the aggression even in the heat of the moment.”
Despite a growing chorus from experts about the importance of play for kids’ mental and physical well-being, research indicates the amount of time kids are playing has declined significantly. One survey Gray cited asked a nationally representative sample of parents to keep track of their kids’ activities on a randomly selected day in 1981 and another in 1997. The researchers found that 6- to 8-year olds of 1997 played about 25 percent less than that age group in 1981.
Another study from about a decade ago asked 830 U.S. mothers to compare their children’s play with their own play when they were kids. While about 70 percent of the mothers reported playing outdoors daily as children, just 31 percent said their own kids did. Mothers also said when their kids played outside, they stayed outside for less time. If anything, that trend has accelerated in the ensuing decade, Gray said.
So what’s keeping kids indoors? Fear of abduction is a big one, followed by worries about kids getting hit by cars and bullies, surveys have found. Those fears have created legions of overprotective parents rearing “wimps” who are unable to cope with the ups and downs of life because they have no experience doing so, said Hara Estroff Marano, the New York-based author of the book A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.
“The home of the brave has given way to the home of the fearful, the entitled, the risk averse, and the narcissistic,” Marano said. “Today’s young, at least in the middle class and upper class, are psychologically fragile,” Marano said in an interview published in the journal.
Hovering parents, these researchers said, also deprive their children of something else — joy. One survey found that 89 percent of children preferred outdoor play with friends to watching TV.
“Parents have to remember that childhood is this special time. You only get it once, and you don’t want to miss it,” LaFreniere said. “Mixing it up with other kids in an unrestrained manner isn’t just fun. It isn’t a luxury. It’s part of nature’s plan.”
The American Occupational Therapy Association talks about important aspects of play.
Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
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The wait is over! My new book is here!
Sweet Pickles, The Girl Who Would Not Speak
Written by Deborah A. Beasley
Illustrated by Roy L. Cook
Official pub date is June 9, 2014, but you will find it sooner on Amazon.com! Below is a preview of the little book already receiving big reviews!
“No one knows why Pickles will not speak. That is to say, she CAN speak, but mostly she doesn’t. Instead, she squeaks and squeals, she grunts and groans, and most of all, Pickles screams! She screams so much her family stuffs their ears with corks and fingers, cotton balls and ear muffs nearly every day! Until one day, her mom teaches Pickles how to sign, and everything begins to change!
Written with lighthearted humor and love, young readers follow Pickles and her family on their quest to find the answers to why the little girl will not speak. Sweet Pickles is a heartwarming story of a mother’s unfailing support for her daughter, and a little girl’s triumph to overcome her fears.”
“… a must-read for any parent who has a child with anxiety or social phobia. … a wonderful story that allows children to accept who they are and give parents’ permission to create a safe place for their child as they gain the skills of communication.
… a highly recommended tool for therapists, counselors, teachers, daycare providers, and all those working with children!” Dr. Stacy Haines, Ed.D., LPC, Executive Director, Little Hands Family Services
Barely 48 hours have passed since we first learned of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The steady unfolding details of the massacre of 6 adults and 20 little children has stunned the nation and ripped at our hearts and minds. On the heels of a mall shooting one week prior, we question another unspeakable attack.
Why do I have to instruct my nine and twelve year olds in the art of survival while they are at school? Like many of you, my mind seeks solutions to prevent this horror from happening. My daughters’ schools have buzz-in security systems and practice protocols to insure the safety of our children. Is the next step to install bulletproof doors and windows? Will our children now attend places meant for learning and discovery, locked in a fortress?
More Questions than Answers
What are the answers? What are the problems?
Is it time to ask the hard questions and take the hard actions in order to save our children and ourselves? Is it time to call for a moratorium of gun sales in the United States? Is it time to reinstate the Clinton ban on assault rifles, which have no place in our compromised society? When do we begin to address the issues of gun violence in America? While we hesitate to act decisively, 35 more people will die today.
Is it time to look long and hard at how we parent, or fail to parent well, that might have impact on these unspeakable and desperate crimes? When did we forget to remember that all children need love, safety and nurturing? Dr. Drew Pinski said it best: Our society and culture are sick.
We need to console one another as best we can, and search for answers amid our personal and national grief. Each one of us feels the bottomless depth of loss for these innocent adults and children.
We need to look at the causes that will lead to a cure. Is it time yet? Or, will we push away the terror we live with every day at the malls, schools, movie theaters, temples and churches of America and do nothing? Is this the way we agree to live from now on?
Deborah Beasley, family time, fun activities, july, lancaster, LinkedIn, NC Aquarium, north carolina, pennsylvania, summer fun, summertime, things to do, Together At Last Family, Virginia, Zoo at Norfolk
Family Time Cures Summertime Blues
20 Cool and Exciting Activities
By Deborah A. Beasley
Happy Anti-Boredom Month! That is right, folks. The month of July is Anti-Boredom Month, here in the good old U.S. of A.! Do not ask why…Let us just move on.
If your kids are complaining of boredom during their time off from school, here is your opportunity to fight off the family doldrums this summer by getting out, having fun, and spicing up the heat! Here are 20 ways to beat the heat, promote fitness, connect with your children, enjoy America, and leave electronics behind.
- Make a day trip to the beach or lake for swimming, fishing, or relaxing.
- Get out the rackets and play a family game of tennis or badminton.
- Plan a picnic (backyard, nearby park, wherever), and let the kids help with the menu. A dollar store Frisbee, watermelon seed spitting contest, and a few kites are all you need to complete the day. A favorite place to spend the summer days when I was growing up was Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site, in Chadds Ford, PA.
- Riding bicycles. Look up the nearest Rails to Trails Program in your area. The quaint town of Jim Thorpe in the Pocono Mountains, PA, has such an opportunity. Easy downhill riding and fabulous vistas for all ages. Bike rentals are reasonable, and child carriers and trailers are available.
- Overnight camping in a tent or trailer is great fun for the whole family, even if it is in your own backyard!
- Explore one of the many beautiful state parks near you for hiking, picnicking, and swimming. You might catch a glimpse of some local wild life. Stop by the Ranger Station for fun activities they offer like identifying animal tracks.
- Visit local historic sights. We live 20 minutes from historic Philadelphia, PA, home of Carpenters Hall, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell. We sometimes forget there is much to do so near to us. What historic sights are near you?
- Visit a children’s museum, or other museum in a city nearest you. Have the kids take part is the many activities provided at the museum like scavenger and other discovery hunts. The Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill, NJ offers kiddies hands on activities they’ll love.
- Visit a petting zoo, or your city or state zoo. The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk offers over 350 animals on 53 acres. You can take a safari through Africa and see their African elephants.
10. See the world from down under (under water, that is), and spend time with sharks, penguins, octopi and fishes at the aquarium. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina is one of our favorites!
- 11. Plan a trip to a living history farm and give the family a taste of early American life.
12. Visit an Amish Community for great food, fun, and help expand your child’s cultural understanding. In Pennsylvania, the Amish Community to visit is located in Lancaster.
13. Pick fruit at a local farm. Then return home for a special treat of the fresh taste of strawberries, blueberries, or peaches. The promise of adding a little vanilla ice cream will give the kiddies an extra incentive to fill their baskets!
14. A backyard bonfire with friends. Don’t forget the s’mores and hokey campfire songs. Here are a few examples:
- She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She comes
- He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands
- This is the Song That Never Ends
Alright. I know at least one of you is thinking – “Kumbiyah”, but I was not going to say it!
- 15. Trip to a Water Park!
- 16. Boardwalk amusements fun! In Southern New Jersey, the Wildwoods offer spectacular fireworks on the boardwalk every Friday night!
- 17. Family and friends mini-golf tournament.
18. Invite another family for Cosmic Bowling. Have everyone where articles of clothing with colors that glow in the dark.
19. Horseback riding on woodsy trails is fun for teens and adults alike.
20. Take advantage of the many traveling circuses and carnivals passing through your area every summer. You will often be supporting a local Fire company, sports team, or other community endeavor in the process of having great family fun.
Well, there you have it. Twenty cool and exciting activities you can do to fill summer down time with your kids. Send them back to school refreshed, reenergized, and reconnected with you. There IS a cure for the summertime blues, and you create the family memories that never fade away! Have fun!
©2012 Deborah A. Beasley All rights reserved.