kids still play

Kids can still play…. we just have to let them

Kids don’t know how to play outside anymore. They don’t know how to use their imaginations. Kids are overweight because they no longer run.

Just a few of the sweeping generalisations we hear when we talk about the “kids of today”.

There are some truths in statements such as these. We see kids glued to their screens and devices. We see kids preferring to play indoors rather than run out in the street or in back yards. We see kids more interested in their likes and followers than their real life interactions. We see increasing numbers of kids battling obesity.

But is picking on the younger generation just something we always do?

Because we can’t really blame the kids can we?

We put devices in their hands and relish the time to ourselves. They see us glued to our screens and follow suit. They are not allowed to go out and play in the street for fear of predators. They are taken out to dinner and handed an ipad so the meal can be eaten in peace. They throw tantrums when they are told to shut down a game and come to the dinner table or do their homework.

Of course that is not all kids. Lots of kids still play.

But I think it takes some effort. A little bit of effort by the parents to provide the opportunities.

Give them the time and the space…. and they will play. It may be different to how we did, but they still have the desire and the need to play, use imagination, to run, to jump, to interact and to just hangout.

On the weekend my family and 8 of our friends spent 3 nights at the Big 4 Bellarine Holiday Park. Between us all there were 19 kids. They ran, they rode bikes, they played cricket, they swam, they kicked footballs, shot basketballs, bounced on jumping pillows, swang on swings, dug in sand, flew on a flying fox and BMX’d over dirt bike jumps. The highlight for most was a couple of ‘kids versus parents’ soccer matches. I’m not sure who had more fun with that , suffice to say a few parents were feeling their age the next day. For the record, the parents won. Building the resilience and letting our kids experience losing an added bonus. They were more than ready however, to get back up again and have another go at beating the big people!


But the kids didn’t need much coaxing for this type of play. We just had to give them the opportunity.

I am sure most kids are the same. My 5 year old would rather have a running race with someone than do anything else. The 3 year old loves to go on the slip and slide or play hide and seek over and over again. The older boys love to shoot baskets , kick a footy or play cricket. They love playing games on a device and they love sharing and creating and interacting online. But they also love to run and play.

There is nothing wrong with playing on devices. There is some amazing things that happen when kids create, are educated and interact online and with technology. Most adults spend a lot of time with their devices, and so of course, our kids do too. It can be positive and productive and yes it can provide peace when it is needed. But we can’t sit back and let it do all the work.

We need to offer them more.

We can put limits on the technology so they are forced to find other ways to play. We can take them to parks and paddocks and open spaces. We can open a back door. We can organise get togethers with friends. We can have technology free times. We can put down the devices ourselves.

We can prove to our kids and to the rest of the world, that they haven’t forgotten how to play.

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Robyn Rishani

    Kids need time to play and to reflect and to daydream. I read a research paper some time ago that said reflection and daydreaming are needed to help build empathy in children, and without empathy we’d have a society of narcissists! Daydreaming can’t happen if they are always pre-occupied with their devices. Martine this is such a great post and I couldn’t agree with you more! I have nothing else to add except BRAVO!

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Oh thanks so much Robyn. And yes that is such an interesting point about being able to reflect to build empathy. We all have to slow down sometimes.

  2. Adi

    Great article! It’s a very important issue. I think an important think to add is that kids live by example, so if we don’t do any physical exercise, they won’t either.

    All the best,

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Adi, that is so very true. We can’t expect to them to do things if they don’t see it happening around them.

  3. fantastic blog Marty. I was one of these families and relished in all 19 children we had away with us constantly out doing something, most times only coming back to eat. There was no fighting, no complaining and only minimal technology time. I was extremely proud of all 19 kids.. Beautifully mannered children who enjoyed not only the othe kids company but also the adults. Oh, and LOVED winning soccer.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yep, they were all fabulous and the adults were pretty cool too!

  4. Ai Sakura

    Absolutely well-said. I think kids can electronic devices and apps too, as long as in moderation and that they are actually useful, interactive and educational… not just for them to “zone out”.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Very true, there are many great ways the tech can help them learn and interact, it just can’t be their only avenue.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Thanks Malinda. We can also talk about it all we like but sometimes it involves a little more facilitation and opportunity.

  5. Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy

    Yes, you are completely right and I love this post. The best sound I hear in my street are the kids playing in the yard, it’s the best. As a parent, I definitely believe it’s up to me to give my 3 year old the opportunity and always ensure he has with a lovely back yard with chooks, parks, swimming, playgroup etc. Yes we do have the ipad and TV, but it’s all about balance.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      So true Eva, and I really do believe it is up to us to help facilitate that balance. 🙂

  6. Robo

    So true. One thing I remember about the summer months was racing home from school and going straight for a swim to cool off. I also remember fighting sleep but then dropping off and sleeping like a log unitl morning. Exercise is such an important part of a child’s life. Yes! Our kids get the family pad to share on weekends although they watch telly through the week. Balance is best.

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      Yes definitely balance is best. And Im pretty sure oat of us watched a bit of TV growing up 🙂

  7. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    I’m big on this right now and boot my kids out to play games every chance I get. Although this week 2 of mine are getting tonsils out so screens will be my saviour I suspect!

    1. Martine Oglethorpe

      You need to do whatever works Em! Nothing like getting them over and done with together!

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