Muddy hands and scrammed knees

I put together a blog post earlier this week made up of three of my favourite quotes about play.  I had several comments from people saying how much they like the quotes and how true it is that play is serious business for our children, it’s the way they learn about the world.

One of the comments really stuck with me though.  The writer said that they felt that the traditional, simply play of childhood seems to be disappearing in this modern world.  That our children these days just want to play on electronic devices and aren’t interesting in old-fashioned play any more.

My eldest is only 4, so I don’t have any first hand experience of older children.  It may well be the case that they are more interested in computer games than any other kind of activity.  And certainly my son does like to play on my phone and ipad.  The thing is, I really do think that they have a place in our children’s lives these days.  They’ve been born into a very ‘electronic’ world.  They will need the skills they learn using these devices as they get older.  I also know that Rhys has learnt a lot from watching certain programs on the TV and by playing with various apps on my phone.

But, BUT, he also spends a lot of time engaged in ‘old-fashioned’ play.  The writer of the comment mentioned that we need to try and remind our children how good simply play can be, and I really do agree.  We’ve spent the last two afternoons at the park where Rhys has run around with his friends, learning about co operation, sharing and taking turns, using his imagination playing house in the bushes, testing his body by climbing and jumping.  And I’ve been very conscious of finding a balance between hovering and making sure he’s safe, and standing back and letting him get on with it.

See, there’s been a lot of talk recently about our children’s safety.  This video of a man leading children away from a playground recently popped up on my Facebook newsfeed.  It seemed to prove that our children aren’t safe out in public; that even if we’ve taught them not to talk to strangers they are still likely to go off with them given half a chance.  And if you just quickly watch the video you’ll most likely be terrified and want to keep your children by your side where you can keep them safe.  It’s scare stories like this that are all over the media that are causing parents to be so reluctant to let their children run around outside.  It’s much safer to just keep them in and let them play on the ipad!

Which is why I’m so glad I found this article on freerangekids.com, which argues against most of the points made in the video.  I highly recommend you go and read it.  It might help put your mind at rest a little bit.

There are always dangers to our children.  Lenore Skenazy from free range kids makes the great point that we could drive our children to school to keep them safe from predators, only to be hit by a truck instead.  The point being, we can’t guarantee our children’s safety 100% of the time.  There will always be freak accidents.  There will always be illness.  And yes, unfortunately, there will always be sick people out there with bad intentions towards our children.

But that is life.  We can’t hide ourselves and our children away.  There is so much more good in the world than bad.  I for one want my children to be bold and to explore all the wonderful things out there.

So I’m working on finding a balance.  My children will play on electronic devices; they can learn a lot from them and have fun.  But they will also draw and paint and make things with play doh.  They’ll explore our slightly out of control garden.  They’ll go to the park and test their boundaries and play in the bushes.  They’re still so young that I try my damn best to keep them in sight at all times, because in all honesty it does scare me what might happen if they’re out of sight.

But I don’t want to hover.  I don’t want their main memory to be me telling them to ‘be careful’.  I want them to remember me telling them to have fun instead!  That’s what childhood is about. muddy hands and scrammed knees and just having fun!

What are your thoughts on this?  Have you seen the video?!  How willing are you to let your kids out to play like we probably did when we were little?

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