Child of our time

What did you do when you came home from school as a child?

I can remember as a child running home from school in the company of two friends. On many days we raced to be the first from the school to run through the lane to our road. Other days we walked along looking at the sky to see what shapes we could make out. We chatted and laughed together and on arriving home split to go into our own houses shouting “See you later”.

My mom was always at home waiting for my two brothers and I with lunch ready. We ate together and then quickly raced through our homework. Once we were finished out we went.

There was never the option of staying in and watching television. My mother was uninterested if we said “no one is out”.She would open the front door and say, “Go out and play”.

And what a great time we had. We played outside for hours.  Sometimes with just a few friends, other times with half the children from the road, playing chase, tip the can, hide and seek or rounders. We climbed trees, rode bikes or just walked around together.photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/actaeon1805/3663493402/">actaeon1805</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

I look back on that time and remember it with great fondness. I also look back and believe I was one of the last generations of children who were allowed to be children.

The modern world is not child friendly.  Gone are the days when children just played and hung out together. Nowadays there is a different emphasis on childhood. Every moment has to provide purpose, it is all about learning and having experiences. Very young children have educational toys. As they get older, children are signed up for violin, swimming, gymnastics, football, ballet, and art classes, not to mention maths and french classes.

In reality children nowadays have little time for play. They come home from school, do homework and then attend a variety of after school classes. This often means no time for outdoor play, and no time for school friends to visit.

When children have free time parents do not seem to rank play as a part of their lives. In fact instead of allowing children go out and play, parents often feel the need to bring them somewhere so they can play.  So they are transported to the local playground or park, when in fact they could have played just as happily outside their own front door.

Where has this huge interest in after school activities come from? Is it the case that with more money available than in my mothers time, that more parents believe they should be giving their children every opportunity they can to experience new things? Or is it a matter of competition? Are parents pushing their children in the belief that they will find hidden talents or is it a case of ensuring they are keeping up with the Jones?

Looking at the mothers around me and how much of every day they spend on the road driving their children, I cannot help but wonder, who is it all for? If I were to ask my children whether they would like to go to an after school activity or play with their friends I know which one they would choose.

I wonder where it will all end?  Will our children slowly lose the ability to play by themselves? Will the old fashioned games such as skipping, chasing and tip the can be lost? Will life for our children become a series of tests and exams? Will free play become something associated with lack of parenting rather than good parenting?photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cayusa/2194119780/">Cayusa</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>

I don’t have the answers but I do wonder what was wrong with our childhoods that we would want to change it so radically? What is childhood if it is not a time to play? And what is the future for our children if they never learn how important it is to have fun and just enjoy life.

photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc
photo credit: actaeon1805 via photopin cc

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14 thoughts on “Child of our time

  1. I truly envy a normal childhood. Yours must have been wonderful. I do believe the problem lies with parents. Many parents push, push, push their children believing they are in competition with other parents to get their children into the best schools and colleges. All of that speaks to the greed that many are accustomed to. $$$

    1. We are living in a different world and I do think that many parents feel pressured into signing their children up for many different activities. Parents are trying their best but I do think life could be so much more fun if children were given a little more freedom to play, and less time achieving.

  2. We either walk home from school or get a lift with the neighbour (the kids chat and the mammies chat) in the door for a snack and homework then go and play.. The tv is on but more for noise then anything else my girls come up with all sorts of ways to entertain themselves (making a castle out of loo rolls is a favourite) today the grass was cut so they will be out into the garden weather permitting from now on. Abigail only goes to one after school activity and that’s ladybirds (girl guides) and that’s enough for her! I would love to let them run free out the front but we are beside a road so it’s not an option but I do go out with them to play with the neighbours when they are in the humour, it’s good to interact..

    1. You sound like you are already aware of the importance of play. I do think though that as our children get older there is pressure put on parents to sign them up for different opportunities, not to mention the grinds that so many have their kids doing come secondary school.
      I saw the pictures of your little ones enjoying the cut grass earlier, that says it all. Happy days.

  3. i had the same kind of childhood and loved every minute. i tried to provide the same for my daughters but ending up single and working limited it a bit, but still didn’t sign them up for a lot, just let them play. go outside and play. with whoever is around. comeback in for lunch or dinner. i think play is how children learn. really learn. to compromise, to negotiate, to share, to have fun. to enjoy life as a child.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head there. It is definitely with our young peers that we learn to negotiate and interact. A very important part of play.

  4. Yes I remember that I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child. Now, children grow up with i-Devices, they are the i-generation. I’m trying to get the kids outdoor more often too.

    1. It’s not easy to strike a good balance and with technology and the perception that the world is less safe, many children are staying indoors more often. I am glad I grew up when I did. life was less complicated I think.

  5. I was lucky to be of the generation when parents weren’t so paranoid about their kids safety and we played outside, without adult supervision, until it was dark, making up our own games and getting into all sorts of mischief – a whole gang of us, all the kids in the street, boys and girls, of all ages, hanging out together, the older kids looking out for the younger ones

    1. Happy days Duncan, but I think they are not the norm nowadays. People are so paranoid and children have to prearrange everything using a mobile phone, instead of just banging on a door. I think for all todays advantages we were lucky to grow up when we did.

  6. My eldest kids started off wanting to join clubs then would get fed up. I decided not to waste any more time and money on clubs that were a nine days wonder. The more kids I had the less practical or feasible it became to ferry or afford. We’re lucky that we live on a relatively quiet street so the young ones just go out to play – kerby, bikes, scooters, skates, whatever rocks their boat. Bad weather sees them indoors at friends or with friends here. Also because they have so many siblings they play together a lot. Amazing that 16, 12 and 6 still find things to play together.
    For me, finance and time have been a huge actor in not going the club route. But the kids don’t seem to miss it. They make their own entertainment. Kind of how it should be. I don’t ever recollect asking my mum to play with me. We played together and mum did mummy things. These are very much changed days. I listen to school kids talk of all the clubs they go to and soft play activities, etc. I seriously don’t know how people afford it or find the time.x

    1. Maybe by being financially constrained your kids have actually benefited. I laugh at my gang too when I see how they can do things together despite the age difference, even though sometimes those things are technological I have to admit.
      I do think sometimes some children are so busy but no one notices as it has become the norm.

  7. I let my kids have a little TV time when they get home. Then homework. Then out the door to play outside. I’ve found when I do after school activities, without giving them the time to rest first and wind down, they are too tired to function later. Plus, it’s expensive. My kids are still little, but I hope that we never get too crazy with all the activities.

    1. I think sometimes we parents get sucked into activities without realising how much of our time they are taking up. I think the key is balance and like many things sometimes we are only aware how busy we or our children are when we use hindsight. It sounds like you have it well sussed so far.

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