Teaching children the art of play

Not that many years ago, a child’s life was a much simple one to live. They went to school, came home, ate proper food and slept. There was no right or wrong way for them to be, to think or to act. They stayed young, enjoyed life and learnt through play. Playing that involved friends, fresh air and wide-open spaces that is, not spent passing time alone in a virtual world.

Yes, long before the age of the couch potato and all those computer consoles and handheld devices came along, games actual required inventing – by those playing them no less. Back then there was no need for weighty instruction manuals, an Internet connection or the latest release. You didn’t even need a darkened room, a 40” plasma or lightening fast thumbs to win.

Of course for many kids today it’s probably hard to imagine a time when trees were for climbing up, bushes for hiding in and rivers for swimming across. A time when you’d take off on your bike to explore, or enjoy building machines and go-karts with the limited contents of your Dad’s shed. A time when you’d get together with friends to skim pebbles, play tag or British Bulldog and discuss how to put the world to rights.

Oh how things have changed in recent years – the life of a child is no longer a simple one to live.

All the advances in technology that have helped to improve the world (or at least make it a more convenient place to live) have also changed how the youth of today spend their time. Now the hours between school and sleep are no longer filled with fresh air, fun and laughter. Instead, a computer-savvy generation rushes home from lessons; eager to lose themselves in a digitally generated world and chat to people they don’t even know.

Young children living, learning and interacting by a whole new set of rules, hunched over keyboards and spending hour after hour watching a distorted reality unfold onto a small screen in front of their eyes. They spend all of their spare time surfing, blogging, downloading and chatting. Constantly tweeting and updating on Facebook and telling the whole world secrets that one-day they will wish they had never shared.

Some kids, mainly boys it has to be said, fill countless hours shooting aliens, fighting gangsters and winning wars. Heavily influenced by the media and targeted for their pocket money, these children become addicted to highly unsuitable games in which they ‘play’ at violence, death and destruction until they are completely numb to what they see.

Often these kids are holed up for days on end, so engrossed in what they are doing that they forget to eat, sleep and even live. It’s hard to say what’s more worrying about children, some as young as 9 or 10, developing such a total fixation with technology, and relying on computer screens and TVs to fill their every minute.

Never mind that this sedentary lifestyle, coupled with a modern-day diet of fatty junk food and a decline in physical education lessons at schools, is resulting in one of the biggest health problems that world now faces today – childhood obesity, but it is also robbing them of something they can never get back – their innocence and their youth.

 

Taken from my weekly BLOG written for Treehouse Life.

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