Helicopter Parenting Comes in for a Landing
When I became a parent, I was stunned to discover the crazy world of kid-scheduling. Every afternoon, there had to be something: sports, play-dates, ballet, drama camp, and various other activities for little explorers, dancers, chefs, buddings entomologists, and acrobats. Granted I live in San Francisco, one of the helicopter-parent capitals of the world, but this seemed extreme and honestly, ridiculous. When I was a kid, we played after school. We rode bikes and explored backyards and canyons. We even, god forbid, walked home from school. Without adult supervision.
Too many parents today feel compelled to seek out constant opportunities to stimulate their children, worried, it seems that a free afternoon will stunt their children's intellectual and creative development. But there's growing evidence to suggest that parents should step away from the carpool and just let their kids come home and read a book or dig in the yard.
Fortunately, more and more parents are embracing a growing movement to restore play. And it's happening in the nick of time, as reported today in the New York Times:
For several years, studies and statistics have been mounting that suggest the culture of play in the United States is vanishing. Children spend far too much time in front of a screen, educators and parents lament — 7 hours 38 minutes a day on average, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation last year. And only one in five children live within walking distance (a half-mile) of a park or playground, according to a 2010 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control, making them even less inclined to frolic outdoors.
It seems the well-meaning urge to keep kids occupied at all times has rendered them unable to entertain themselves.
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, concluded, “Play is just a natural thing that animals do and humans do, but somehow we’ve driven it out of kids.”
And it's hard to believe it's come to this, but non-profits, foundations, and various coalitions are now busy creating events and program to help parents organize play and help kids relearn the simple pleasures of tag and fort-building. This is great news. Like many so-old-fashioned-they're-now-radical activities that have captured national attention in recent years, from community gardens to canning to knitting, traditional play should be making a comeback. Because really, the only downside is a messier house.