Dear Parenting Magazine,
I appreciate your current issue’s focus on play. I particularly appreciate the article “The State of Play,” touting the importance of play for children. The article quoted experts on the importance of play for children’s development in all areas: physical, psychological, and academic. This topic is crucial, and the trend of children being denied play is a serious problem. Teachers, parents, policy-makers and administrators should all read the article. Here’s who else should read the article: the editors and writers of Parenting magazine.
On the page after “The State of Play” is a feature called “Oh, Go Play Already!,” which consists of grids of ‘play’ activities for parents to organize for their children. Seriously. Right after arguing that play is crucial and defining play (per the American Academy of Pediatrics, no less) as unstructured and child-driven, there are lists of parent-led, structured activities to do with kids, such as this gem for 3 to 4-year olds: “ Got 15 minutes? Write a large alphabet letter on a sheet of paper. Give it to your child along with a set of crayons, then have her trace the letter with one color at a time”
In what horrible universe is this play? Directing a three-year-old to sit down and spend 15 minutes tracing letters, with specific rules about color use, is pretty stupid, but calling it play is outrageous. It is wrong, and it is bad for children. This is not one more essay about the horror of childhood play-depravation. There are many people fighting this good fight. I wish I could get better at feeling bemused rather than angry at the absurdity of it all. Pediatricians and other child-development experts are having to scream themselves hoarse with the message that children ought to play, your magazine gives it lip-service, then goes and calls the kids in from outside and puts them down in a chair tracing letters.
Then again, the feature recommending that moms match their lip gloss to their sunglasses (again, seriously) should have been enough to suggest to me we have different parenting priorities. Also the one about how moms should dress up in costumes to spice things up in the bedroom with dads, but we can get to that one later.
Teacher and Assistant-director and Mom who Knows Kids Deserve to Really Play