Where Do The Children Play?

If I were to mention a challenge to homeschooling, it would be finding other children for Kat to play with. Unlike many home educated kids, Kat has no siblings with whom to play. She plays with children when we’re in public places, of course and she’s very social and open to play with children of all ages.

The trouble is, the parks are so often empty, even during after school hours and on weekends. The weather certainly plays a role here. It’s been cold and the rain seems never-ending.

We have local friends who homeschool, but their schedules seem jam-packed with organized activities that finding time to simply go play seems nearly impossible. We love hanging out with them, but it is quite sporadic, which is fine, but Kat is wanting more regular free play time with kids.

Aren’t any families out there just interested in turning their kids loose for a few hours of good, old-fashioned play time?

I am, that’s for sure.

It’s been a challenge I honestly didn’t expect to face and I was dumbfounded by it.

Then, I began researching and it opened my eyes to a few things.

Did you know that children in 1997 spent 145% more time doing homework than kids in 1981? They also averaged only 11 hours of free play time, including time spent on computers! I had no idea, but it makes sense. As a teacher, I remember there being a lot of children still at school well after five o’clock. They were there for practice, or other extra-curricular activities. After that, they still had homework to do, so it’s no wonder kids aren’t out playing together.

It’s sad.

In the 1980s, when I was a kid, we spent every possible hour at play. After school, I did a bit of homework, I had a snack and jumped on my bike to meet up with friends. We played until dinner time. Our parents didn’t organize this. We did. Our parents weren’t around to watch us. They trusted us.

What a novel idea, right?

Perhaps living in a small town helped. I don’t know.

Later, in the 1990s, when my sons were little, they lived very much like I did as a kid. I had no idea this was rare until I read the research. They were free to be children, to get messy, to explore without me right next to them, to make friends on their own, and even to have accidents.

I didn’t organize play dates, or have to “pencil in” a friend.

What has happened?

Perhaps it really makes a difference to live in a larger city. If this is the case, then perhaps it’s time for my family to make a move, because this is ludicrous. While the city has a lot of cool things to do, I find community to be lacking & to me, community is more important than great restaurants and shopping.

I have contacted friends who are not so local and thankfully, they’re eager to meet up for regular play time and I’m so excited. Kat needs it. I need it.

Childhood itself needs it.

We need more children at play. Play is when children learn the most. They learn to regulate their time. They learn social skills. They work through emotions and learn to handle stressors through play. I’m not talking about adult-led play, but free play.

The good stuff.

With adults constantly scheduling and planning their schedules, children are losing out on this vital part of being a human being and I think it is something we need to change as a culture. This culture of “busy” is good for no one, certainly not children.

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