The Erosion of Play

I hadn’t thought about it before.

The whole idea that play during childhood impacted a series of things in a person’s life really struck me. Play doesn’t simply just impact childhood, its effects are felt for the rest of someone’s life.

As a person progresses through adulthood, play begins to be something that is frowned upon. Suddenly, you aren’t able to play anymore. You aren’t able to play anymore because you’re not allowed to or because there’s homework and papers and deadlines and things to be done because the people in your life and the world demands those things to be done. Suddenly, you’re caught up and tangled in everything because everything just keeps piling,

piling,

piling,

and piling

on top of each other.

You’re not a kid anymore (a kid meaning a person who isn’t responsible for… “big,” “serious” things that constitute “adult” life). And sometimes, when we’re all caught in the tangle of life and growing responsibilities, we forget the importance of play. And sometimes, when we’re all caught in the tangle of life and growing responsibilities, we forget what it’s like to be a kid again.

Sometimes, in the process of getting caught and tangled in everything, we also lose the sense of being simply curious—for being curious for the sake of curiosity.

Young people have lost the sense that they have control over their own lives.

Peter Gray talked about the decline of play in his TED Talk (and goes into more detail in this article he published). He explained how there has been an “erosion of play” since the 1950s and its effects. What really struck me, as I’ve mentioned in the beginning, is the fact that young people (not only kids), have lost the sense that they have control over their own lives—they’ve lost the internal sense of freedom. And in effect, or at least, tied to these issues, are higher levels of anxiety and depression and higher rates of suicide. I didn’t realize that play, or rather, the lack of it, had these effects. The infographic below discusses additional reasons about the benefits of play and its effects.

As a child with overprotective parents, which they continue to be, I wasn’t allowed to freely play outside. I was always confined to playing with dolls, or playing board games, or cards, or watching tv, or reading, etc. I don’t remember doing anything without adult supervision; I didn’t think it was a big deal then, but reflecting back on it, I wish I had more freedom. Parents are always concerned about safety, but as Gray brought up in his TED Talk, depriving a child of free play have possible consequences late in life. In addition, depriving a child of free play also means that they are also deprived of the memories they could possibly be making.

I wasn’t aware that my friends had planned to build a blanket fort; when they brought out the sheets and blankets, and as we arranged and stacked tables to build higher walls, I felt myself turning into an 6 year old again. As we were all gathered into a small circle inside our fort, I realized how much I missed simply playing and doing the things I used to do when I was younger. I missed being a kid. I missed not having to constantly worry about my future. I still do.

play-infographic

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