Ah, kids today. They don’t know the meaning of ‘play’! Seriously.

children making mud pies

Photo by JBColorado.

I loved the article “Do you know where your children are? Is that always a good thing?” that appeared on NPR.com a couple of months ago. It addressed the issue of play and adventure and how today’s generation of kids are, for better or for worse, being robbed of the opportunity to jump in swamps, climb trees and play unsupervised. According to the article, children spend an average of just 30 minutes playing a week. Here’s an excerpt:

 “Richard Louv, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, worries that bugs and creepy crawly things may become more alien, more “other,” if kids stay out of the woods. All over the world, children may not be getting to explore plants and animals in natural settings on their own. That’s a loss, he thinks. Will they know what they’re missing? In 2005, Louv asked a fourth-grader in San Diego where he liked to play, indoors or out? The kid said, “I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where the electric outlets are.”

So maybe you’re thinkin’, “So what if kids would rather play with a Blackberry than go pick one? What does it matter if children’s definitions of fun has changed in the last 20 years?”

Well, according to this study, children’s ability to be creative and to invent original ideas and imaginative solutions has been on the decline since the 1970s. According to the researchers cited in the article, the possible culprits involved include standardized testing in schools (“You can do well on a test by studying a lot, but it won’t encourage original thinking”), the increase in hours children spend each day on “passive activities” like watching TV and – yep, you guessed it- the decrease in imaginative play.

So, to recap: kids aren’t playing as much anymore = kids aren’t as creative =  kids will grow up to become unimaginative gadget-obsessed bores.

Yikes. Should be we scared?

What do you think? Should we be worried that children are being robbed of the joys of mud pies and bug collecting? Or are people making a big deal out of nothing?

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