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Let Kids Be Kids

Let Kids Be KidsTufts child development professor David Elkind says parents should be careful to not over-schedule their kids.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.22.06] Whether they’re at baseball practice, a piano lesson, play rehearsal or a soccer game, America’s kids seem to be in constant motion. Pile homework and household chores on top of an already packed schedule and one fact becomes clear: children in the United States have very little free time for good, old-fashioned play – a phenomenon one Tufts expert says is threatening children’s physical and mental health.

“The silencing of children’s play is as harmful to healthy development, if not more so, than is the hurrying of children to grow up too fast too soon,” Tufts child development professor David Elkind wrote in the introduction to his new book, The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children, which will be published in January 2007.

More than two decades ago, Elkind, a nationally renowned child development expert, authored The Hurried Child, a book about kids growing up too fast. His latest work explores the role of play in child development.

“Sometimes, you have to go out, you have to play,” Elkind said in a recent interview with National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. When children are denied opportunities for “free, self-initiated and spontaneous play,” the Tufts expert warns there can be health and psychological consequences.

“Thirteen percent of our children are obese,” Elkind wrote in the introduction to his book. He added that children who spend too much time in front of the television or the computer have “little time for exercising their predispositions for fantasy, imagination and creativity.”

To ensure that kids have time enough for play, Elkind told NPR that he recommends parents limit their kids to three extracurricular activities at a time, according to NPR. He also warns against giving into pressures to involve children in more activities.

“You know, there's a lot of parent peer pressure today,” Elkind told NPR. “I think parents can't rear their children the way they've been reared because the world has changed dramatically in the last 25 years. Computers and the Internet and all of those things, their parents didn't grow up with those things. So they have to look to experts, they have to look to their peers and their own anxieties. And I think that makes it very difficult for parents.”

While the challenge of being a parent can be overwhelming, Elkind urges mothers and fathers to take a step back and remember what it was like to be a kid.

“I think we [have] become overprotective of children,” Elkind said on the news program. “You have to nick your knees. You have to, you know, break something sometimes … You have to get dirty.”

According to Elkind, that is all part of growing up.

“That's where you learn a lot of skills, social skills, other kinds,” he told NPR. “And you also learn about risk taking, what you can and cannot do and what the limits are.”

 

 

 

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