The Importance of Play

I found myself relating to many of the situations and ideas discussed in today’s readings, which only made the issue of children’s lack of exposure to their communities even more real and upsetting. It is only recently that parents have acquired this fearful, over-protective attitude towards their kids. It is common to enroll them in a multitude of after school and weekend activities that ultimately shelter them from interacting with the community, which is arguably the place where they are most likely to gain valuable insights about the world and themselves. This knowledge is not something that can be taught in a top-ranking preschool or boarding school, but on the streets and sidewalks where unpredictability and imagination are abundant. My mom has told me countless stories of her childhood in a Californian suburb similar to my neighborhood in Maine, and they all involve her and her brothers talking to some crazy neighbor or skateboarding down the steepest hill in town without parental supervision. I am grateful that my childhood was similar to my parents in that I was always meeting up with neighborhood kids of all ages and creating fun and inventive games, but I think I was also somewhat more monitored and disciplined than they were as children. And today, it is apparent that parents have only grown more protective of their kids and fearful of the streets. It is clear that not only do children need to be proactively involved in the creation of kid-friendly outdoor spaces, but parents need to develop new attitudes. It seems the only way for this to occur is for parents to see how the spaces their children want are in fact more safe and beneficial to their development than any high-tech playground or top-notch soccer program.

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