Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When Our Kids Don't Play Anymore

Have you ever just watched a couple of small kids playing? They imagine, pretend, and fantasize about being larger than life characters or like adults they've seen in their world. It's fun to peek in to their creativity that comes out during those un-scheduled, un-planned moments.

The sad part is that many children have little time or opportunity to do that anymore. Too many parents have organized and planned their kids' lives so tightly with sports practices, games, classes and taxi rides that time to just be a kid has vanished for the most part.

I'm reading an excellent book by Randy Frazee, a pastor in San Antonio, called Making Room for Life, in which in one chapter he mentions seven things our children will lose if they rarely have time to just play and be children.

The first is lost creativity. Because adults organize most children's activities these days, kids lose the practice they would normally receive to make up their own games and projects. The second is lost leadership skills. Our kids will run their own games if we would just let them and in the process be learning some valuable lessons about how to lead and organize others.

The third is lost mentoring. Again, when all of our kids friendships are "arranged," often by age groupings they lose the important role of being able to mentor another child younger than they are, something that often happens spontaneously when kids of different ages get to have fun together.

The fourth is lost conflict management skills. When kids are in organized activities all the time the adults immediately jump in when there's a problem. But with unstructured play the kids have to learn over time how to deal with problems on their own. Yes, we need good adult modeling and guidance but there comes a time when children have to simply solve problems by themselves.

The fifth is lost health. Kids today are simply overscheduled and as a result they're facing health problems from lack of sleep, poor nutrition and stress. What kinds of health problems will they face in adulthood if they are already being pushed too hard now?

The sixth is lost finances. This struggle is borne most by the parents of course. But have we really looked at how much it's costing us financially for all the equipment, gasoline, clothing and entry fees we pay for our kids' activities? And is it worth it just to keep up with the Joneses? Is it worth the price for the extra pressure that puts on mom and dad to provide it all?

And the seventh and last is lost family meals. Overscheduling our kids not only hurts them in ways but keeps them from healthy and revitalizing down time with their family. Meal times are opportunities for families to enjoy dialogue, connection and encouragement along with a meaningful slowing down after a busy day.

So the question is: Are the schedules we're keeping and the activities we're pursuing with our children all worth the losses listed above? Do you experience any of these losses? Do you need to change something, slow down and take a few thing off the schedule? Do you need to give something up to gain something far better? Chances are you do.

I can't tell you what choices to make but think about it, will you? Your decisions could literally be lifechanging!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article! Our family's best decision ever was to cut back on extra curricular. This year, my daughter comes home from school and plays with her sister. No tv, no video games, no play dates, no carpool....just playing. It's been priceless to see the bond between sisters and to hear the creativity unfold in my little girls. The sound of peace in our home is music to my ears. No-one is rushing from A-B and getting stressed out over lack of time. I love the simple sweetness of it. Thanks for the article Gary. Great advice & encouragement in your words. Will have to pick up a copy of "Making room for Life." It sounds great.