Friday, February 3, 2012


The second part of my groups for kids at the shelter is playtime. The shelter and I provide plenty of stimulating toys: Legos, a Dr. kit, Uno, board games, kitchen "food" and "china", soldiers and their equipment, a doll house and "Children's Medical Hospital", dominoes, etc.).

Sometimes when kids first come to group, they're not intersted in playing with these non-electronic toys. They say, "It's "boring." Ask, "Can we play with the Wii?"(in another room), "Do you have a Gameboy?" and so on.

Many of these kids have spent a lot of time with TV, video games, etc. These electronic "babysitters" are considered harmful by many experts because children often play with them alone, rather than learning social skills; they may experience far too much violence and become numb to it; they do not have to be creative while being entertained by these toys, and I could go on.

What's good is that when kids don't have electronic games to play with, they soon begin to succumb to the charms of imaginative play. This may take two or three weeks, but it definitely happens. They also learn to get along with others, cooperate, share, and create "wars", "dinners", domino "snakes", "Dr.'s offices", etc.

Play is children's work. It is how they explore the world, work out problems, and learn to master challenges. If you aren't already, consider limiting kids' use of these games to one hour or less a day. Then provide kids with toys that they can manipulate, not toys that manipulate them.

One benefit? Perhaps school will be more interesting when they don't expect the teacher to entertain them. And so will play--if it's real play.

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