Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Case for Make Believe

This book, by Susan Linn, is one of those that I think every parent, every educator, every person involved in the upbringing of children in our society, should read. Or at least this type of book: the kind that explains how some things really are good or bad for our children, and what we can do about. For example, the problems with consumer culture, and toys that we think are educational that actually stunt the imagination, and the loss of playtime that is crucial for mental, physical, emotional well-being.

So. Read it. But if you can't, here are what I consider the high points, taken mostly from pages 216-221 and edited slightly for blog-readability and to reflect my own emphasis:

Remember that:

--We buy our kids way too many toys.
--Toys linked to media programs can limit creative play rather than encourage it.
--When picking toys to encourage creative play, less is more. If it moves and speaks, it deprives children of opportunities to move and speak for it.
--Toys that can be used in lots of different ways and that promote open-ended play are great. But a block building kit that only builds one thing diminishes the creative value of playing with blocks.
--Babies don't really want or need electronic toys or TV characters. All the world's a toy to a baby.They'll fall in love with whatever creature is familiar to them, and generic creatures don't show up on candy wrappers--they aren't designed to sell you other products.
--You can find ways to take a shower and cook dinner and take car trips without using TV as a crutch, and then your children won't have to use TV as a crutch to be entertained.

--Build unstructured time into your children's lives so they can learn how to generate their own creative play.
--Give them chances to play on their own.
--If you allow children regular access to screen media, set limits on time and have scheduled screen-free time.
--Be conscious about your choices and remember that while TV, computer games, and web sites can be entertaining, most don't promote creative play (even if they say they do!).
--Invest, from infancy, in toys promoting open-ended play. Great suggestions at Honor your child's interest, but ideas include: blocks, toy doctor's kits, firefighter's hats, puzzles, and puppets.


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