Kids are active creatures. Even us geeks and nerds spent most of our time outside playing Release or Red Light/Green Light as youngins. Today a surprising majority of kids have a schedule and are going from activity to activity, squeezing in violin practice, pottery, and a singe 37-minute play date on a single afternoon. Researchers are now saying there’s a chance this may be doing some harm to your kid.
According to Discovery the lack of free play may be making kids more anxious and even narcissistic than before. Peter Gray, researcher at Boston College, has published two reports on the issue; comparing children of the 1950s to those today, and finding an increase in depression. The ability to play how and when they want is not the only factor in today’s kids being anxious and depressed. But certainly it’s a major player in the problem.
Kids, when left alone, have to find an emotional balance with one another. A system quickly establishes itself where the group mentality is to keep everyone happy, because it’s quickly learned that if you make others feel bad you won’t have anyone to play with. Simple enough of a concept, but kids learn by doing and participating. The frazzled adult telling their child to be nice to others will have no impact, but letting the child interact with a group of peers will imprint permanently the idea of social interaction.
Gary isn’t claiming that the lack of free play is the sole cause of problems for kids today. Even if it isn’t the major problem, how is it a risk to let kids have fun? Stop trying to force your child into being a prodigy, and let it happen naturally. If they’re meant to be a world-renowned cellist, then let them learn the skill amongst friends. 90% of their lives will be devoted to working; most often for someone else, let them have a good time while that’s the only directive they have in life.