Is playtime disappearing and being replaced by media?

Pediatricians and education experts insist that play is an essential part of young childhood.  It helps children develop socially, cognitively and physically.  Has media taken the essential art of play from our children?

In a March/April 2009 article in the magazine, Exchange, psychologist Susan Linn writes that too much commercialism and screen time are combining to “rob children of creative play.”

Linn argues that children today watch their favorite characters on portable screens (cell phones, portable DVD players, etc.) 

“Such unlimited access to miniaturized screens means that even when children are out and about, we are depriving them of opportunities to engage in the world, encouraging them to turn to screens instead,” Linn writes.   (p. 45, 46)

Linn warns that the companies that produce content for these small, portable screens is very lucrative and creates a market-share for them as they license toys, clothing and other items for the retail market.

Linn writes that children’s constant interaction with screens and popular character keeps their natural curiosity at bay, limits opportunities for discovery and problem-solving, and lessens their sense of wonder, thereby missing opportunities to generate play in and with their surroundings in unique way.

She concludes that “hands-on creative play is essential to children’s health and well-being, yet in the 21st century United States, nurturing such play has actually become countercultural. The dominant, marketing-driven, media-saturated culture dictates against it.”  (p.48)

Linn’s argument is buoyed by TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Entertainment).   In Toys, Play and Young Children Action Guide, a TRUCE Newsletter, the organization states that screen time reduces children’s experiences in the real world and undermines creative play. (http://www.truceteachers.org/docs/T_Guide_web_10.pdf)

A newsletter entitled “ Special Report – How To Encourage Children To Learn Through Play” (2010) offers many tips for parents who are seeking to encourage their young children to play more.   One tip is to move the play to an area where there is no television.   Another is for children to make their own toys.  (http://www.remedies4.com/download/how-to-encourage-children-learn-through-play-special-report.pdf)

Other sites offer even more detailed methods to help your young child learn to play creatively.   Psychologist Kathy Eugster offers suggestions for setting up and stocking play areas that will encourage creative, non-commercial play for children.

References:

Eugster, Kathy (2008) Retrieved online   http://www.kathyeugster.com/articles/article007.htm

Linn, Susan (2009) Exchange Retrieved online http://www.commercialexploitation.org/pdf/susanexchange.pdf

Special Report – How to Encourage Children to Learn through Play (2010) Retrieved online http://www.remedies4.com/download/how-to-encourage-children-learn-through-play-special-report.pdf

Toys, Play and Young Children Action Guide (2010) Retrieved online http://www.truceteachers.org/docs/T_Guide_web_10.pdf

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