play

Is Playtime a Lost Art?

Today’s world is filled with violence – from wars – to crimes committed – every day – in every country. There are bombings, explosions, and murders. Our television programs bring up subjects that are “not suitable” for children and certainly “not suitable” as entertainment for adults.

But the world today has taken this violence one step further – they have incorporated it in a child’s playthings. The “shoot ’em up, blow ’em up” mentality has permeated even the toy aisles in every city. While being vigilant or “street smart” is, of course, a major concern for parents of children, the old adage of “What came first – the chicken or the egg” seems to emerge. Was the idea of these recent violent crimes always out there – in the reality world – or was it nurtured and fed by violent TV, movies and now toys?

When a child is placed in a situation of making a choice when angry with another child, does he/she make the decision based on knowing that he/she can’t make them disappear into cyberspace by using a laser gun, jumping over tall buildings and dis- appearing, or eradicating them by all sorts of other means? It seems to be getting harder and harder as toys portray violence from cars turning into robots or bugs, viscious looking creatures that permeate a person’s worse nightmares, and now are sold for $29.99, packed in cellopane and ready for a child to create their own “nightmare.”

As parents, the responsibility of helping a child grow into maturity with a “right” sense of preservation and protection for person and property seems to be swaying to the side with help from “ad” agencies and toy manufacturers. Toys – meant to be an extension of a child’s imaginative world – one of finding out what things are made of, and how they can be used – should not be filled with violence that solves all problems and leaves the “hero” surrounded by smoldering buildings and disintegrated opponents. Yes, the world is a violent place at times – but that should be the adults’ responsibility to cope and deal with the circumstances.

Our children can be made aware of certain dangers as their age allows them the maturity to understand, but why heap on violence and destruction during their recreational times as well. Will problem solving, peaceful negotiation, or finding solutions that benefit both sides without any violent act be lost forever? Will today’s child grow up with “beating” the other guy at any expense, and showing no mercy? Are parents ready to cope with the problems that anger and violence can nurture as a child is confounded by news, television, movies, and even playthings that prove that the most cunning, and violent victor is really the victor? Will a child learn reasoning, negotiation, and partnership when toys in bright packages are grotesque and chilling?

We certainly want all our children safe, but in our endeavors towards this safety, have we robbed our children of having playtime that shows love, respect, friendship, and just plain fun? Are we, as parents, giving them a choice, or directing their feelings and emotions to victory at all cost? Childhood, holidays, and playtime were times to “get away” for a while and enjoy being a child. We can’t rightfully rob our children of this under the guise that they have the right to know what is really “out there.” Yes, in time and with each appropriate age, they will find out and they will deal with the situations because they have had a solid background of knowing right from wrong, peaceful means from violent, and doing the right thing – at all costs. Isn’t this the legacy worth aiming for – and letting toys be toys – and not the elements of bad dreams and viscious plots? Cars do not turn into laser yielding mean robots, and bugs are not taking over the world – to a child – or to an adult. There is a time and place for instructing our children to be vigilant and protect themselves, but there is also time for play and imagination. They need both.

©Arleen M. Kaptur 2003 October Arleen Kaptur has written numerous books and articles. For a free newsletter – recipes, gardening, lifestyle – please visit – http://www.arleenssite.com

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