I read an article that said many children today have difficulty pretending. Apparently, this “disability” has developed due to extensive time spent staring at gadgets, screens and other devices where all the pretending has already been done…by someone else. Thus, kids are very good at watching what has already been dreamed, and also very good at pseudo participation in such events (through video games, apps and other electronic means), but not so good at make believing on their own.
A typical iconic painting of my childhood might include kids climbing trees, building forts, running races, or lying on backs watching clouds roll by. A similar painting of modern youth would no doubt contain illustrations of kids with earbuds and iPods, or groups of teens sitting together, staring at individual cell phones. I’m sure there would also be no lack of images with youthful eyes, opened wide, engaged in video war.
I have a friend whose daughter could not learn to read. They spent years and lots of money visiting various doctors, psychologists, eye specialists and special needs instructors only to discover that the reason she could not read was due to the fact that she needed more outdoor play! She had spent her childhood scrolling and watching videos and playing electronic games. Her mother always tried to provide “educational” experiences, often using such resources as part of their school curriculum. However, the family almost never ventured outside to run, climb, jump or make believe. The specialist who diagnosed her condition said he sees it often nowadays. It seems that the physiological motion involved in “scrolling” is very different from the eye-coordination and brain activity needed to read hard-copy text. It also seems that this physical ability normally develops through typical childhood play. The cure? The mother was advised to keep her daughter away from electronics and send her outdoors for hours of playtime every day. The good news is: it worked! In time, the young girl’s eyes began to function normally and reading skills improved to the average level for her age group.
I have a another friend who says the best way to eat healthily is too eat as closely to what God made as possible, meaning things that grow naturally in the plant and animal kingdoms. Once we venture off into the world of “man-made/processed products” our health begins to suffer.
Perhaps the same can be said for childhood. Kids need time in the sun. They need to be the “masters of their own universe” through make believe and creative outdoor fun. The stick that once became a sword, baseball bat or a magical wand for children long ago, has sadly become “just a stick.”
Unstructured play and the opportunity to dream and pretend are necessary to a child’s well-being. My own family has found this to be one of the blessings of a homeschooling lifestyle. Many hours of every day are spent working, exploring, learning and playing outdoors.
My fellow Baby Boomers can likely hear the echoes of their mothers, as I can hear the voice of my own if ever the complaint was proclaimed: “I’m bored.” A reply would come without hesitation: “Then, go outside and play!”
I think today’s kids (and parents?) could use a huge dose of our mothers’ wisdom and sage advice!
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.