As readers of this blog know, I spend a great deal of time thinking and talking about restoring childhood — about what kids are missing out on now, and how sad that is NOW. But there is a flipside to this issue: Adulthood. Children do not stay children, but rather spend the bulk of their lives living in the adult world, whether or not they have developed the perspective, coping skills, emotional intelligence, or capacity to do so in a healthy, happy manner.
We have research and experts that point out to us what those of us in this movement already know: unstructured play is vitally important to child development. It is freely chosen, child-directed, and intrinsically motivated. Children do not do it to get anything — be it a high score, a black belt, a gold star, or an allowance. Children play because they like it — heck, they LOVE it. What could be a better lesson to teach kids than to find pleasure and purpose in doing something for the shear joy of it? As an adult, who couldn’t use more joy or intrinsic rewards?
Unstructured play teaches creativity, independence, problem solving, communication skills, risk assessment, negotiation skills, a host of social concepts, and adaptability. The list goes on and on. As an adult, how many times a day do you use these skills? How often do you wish a person you work with or ride the train with had more of these tools under their belt?
You have to wonder what type of adulthood lies ahead for children who are not given, for whatever reason, ample opportunity to engage in unstructured play, explore their neighborhoods, wade in a creek, climb a tree, have down-time, or the host of other opportunities that many of today’s children are missing out on. What capacity will they have to enjoy the ride in life, to handle the ups and downs, and to teach the next generation of children to do the same?
The technology skills will come. School and society will teach those, as will necessity. The academic skills will come, both at school and what is reinforced in the home. We need to safeguard the life skills — like independence, creativity and empathy — that are hallmarks of a truly successful adult.
See ya outside! – The Grass Satin Guru