The Wii, Xbox, tablets, smartphones, DS3D ( or whatever one we are on now). So many options for kids to play but should they be playing??? A friend of mine recently told me a story. She was visiting relatives with her family. She has two young children as does the family she was visiting. They see each other maybe two or three times a year. She walked in a room to find all four kids playing on individual devices. No interaction whatsoever. Is this unusual? Unfortunately, no. Our children are not learning how to play with one another.
I can remember when I was young and school breaks were spent playing with my friends, regardless of the weather. If it was really hot, we swam or played in sprinklers. If it was really cold, we played inside building forts, playing school, or house. As a teenager, we played board games, went skating, fishing, bowling, etc. You get the picture. Rarely did we play a video game together. Only when my friends were unavailable did I get out the Nintendo.
I think the problem is happening for a few reasons. First, we overbook ourselves and our kids. We have activities so many nights a week, it can be hard to have time to play. My family has decided to cut down on some activities so that the kids will have more time to play. Yes we will miss doing things such as gymnastics but in the long run by daughter will be better off knowing how to socially interact on her own.
Second, we fear letting our children play by themselves. Somehow we as a society have gotten it into our heads that we need to plan out play dates and have activities and crafts. While this is great sometimes, this is not helpful to do all the time. Our kids need to know how to play on their own. Give them a box of toys and let them use their imagination. Drop your older kids off at a friend’s home with some board games. They will figure out what games they like. I remember playing one game of Monopoly for days at a time. If you don’t like that type of game, try Apples to Apples-more interactive. Or, you can go old school with Charades. Adolescents barely know how to interact in person due to cell phones. We need to take them back to a simpler time or we will all be in trouble in about ten years when social etiquette is totally gone.
Lastly, we are so busy, we use technology to keep our kids busy. Having your kids’ friends over to play can accomplish the same thing (unless they are really little).
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.