Finding New Ways to Be a Kid
Its almost as if we have to re-invent childhood.
I ran across those words today. They were spoken by the director of a major childrens museum. Theyre intriguing words. And disturbing.
What does she mean? How on earth could the invention of childhood be forgotten?
To answer, first let me describe how I see childhood in our age. Kids are constantly on the go. Theyre scheduled from morning to night. The little time they have to play is frequently gobbled up by video games, television, or DVDs. Theyre not free to roam, to explore, to discover on their own. Kids are viewing and dealing with grown-up issues at younger and younger ages.
In short, for many kids childhood is a bland, joyless march through the day-to-day. It needs rejuvenation.
How do we re-invent childhood? By finding new forms for old essentials:
Play. Its more than just exercising ones thumbs on a controller. We need to find a way to lure kids back to the most satisfying form of play: improvisational, make-it-up-as-you-go fun. But since many kids dont know what that is, theyll need parents to get them started. (Dont panic. This site is here to help.)
Freedom. In our new world of worry, many parents simply cant let their kids roam after school. We need to find safe places for children to explore; whether its a friends farm, a basement workshop, or even a museum overseen by an adult, but guided by a childs whim.
Unstructured Time. Parents control the calendar. We can choose to leave time for our kids (and us!) to chill. But it will mean making hard decisions about what organized activities theyll do. Guard that free time jealously, and be ready with some ideas for fun if your kids dont know how to use their newfound leisure.
Jean Craighead George, childrens author, called her childhood a leaping, laughing adventure. Thats something worth giving to our own children, even if it takes a little re-inventing.
Bruce Van Patter