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.