Summer is here!

Summer means trees to climb, beaches to explore, music to dance to …

Summer means some space from school and work, and space from the have to’s in our life.

We all need space – children and adults alike. Space to breathe. Space to express what is in us. Space to explore who we are and the world around us. Space to connect with those we love. We need space that is free of pressures, repercussions, and agendas. We need space to play. For many of us, summer is the time we intentionally try and make this kind of space for play in our lives. Yet, more and more, play is becoming endangered in our society.

Now we have many things that look like play. We are pretty good at entertaining ourselves. We have apps, we have YouTube, we have Instagram, we have movies at our fingertips, we have social media, we have video games … but are any of these things really play? These activities provide us with instant access to fun things and to helpful information. There is a lot coming in from the outside. But is there any room for things to come out from the inside? Do these activities make space for exploring or for expressing one’s own ideas, thoughts and opinions? Do the devices that bring us instant answers and quick fixes leave space for the type of play that is expressive or exploratory?

In many ways, true play has been pushed out by work, by outcomes, by expectations and agendas. In fact, play is often seen as frivolous, and therefore time for play has been ousted by more ‘important’ things that ‘should’ be done. The reality is that there is less and less space left for play in our lives and in our children’s lives. This is becoming a real dilemma because it turns out that play is actually a necessary ingredient for development. It is through play that our ability to learn, to solve problems, to interact, and to express emotion, first takes place. Play is what actually equips us for the world of work, for school and for social interactions. And yet, we have a hard time sometimes even finding time for this on our vacations, let alone in our regular lives.

apps_and_games_for_the_long_weekendThis image came into my inbox as I was working on the course “Preserving Play in a Digital World,” and it struck me as being so ironic. Here is this family on a beautiful beach, much like the beaches we have around us here on Vancouver Island, with surfboards in tow, ready to play. And yet, “Apps and games for the long weekend”?! Do we really need to be distracted from nature or from time with family? Is it not already challenging enough to make time to be together? Do we need to escape even the beauty around us? And are we in such a place as a culture that we need to be filled constantly with stimulation from the outside? For me, this would be the kind of adventure where I would want to leave the cell phone and the computer at home. I might even leave the GPS. I would want to find my own way, have my own adventure. Nothing else to distract or pull away from time with those I love. Call me crazy. This would be a time to press pause and play.

I wonder as we move into summer here on the West Coast, where we have such a great playground in the natural world, what it would look like to intentionally make room and space for play. I believe it really does take intentionality to press pause on all the ways we have of entertaining ourselves, on ‘connecting’ through social media, on the temptation of the internet and the video games which are so readily available.

I know I will be trying hard this summer (and it won’t always be easy) to make room and space in our lives for the kind of play that my children truly need.

I encourage you to find a way to press pause and play – whatever that looks like in your life. Once you get the rhythm of it, hopefully you can continue pressing pause beyond the summer months and into the day to day …

 

Editor’s note: If this topic is of interest to you, you may be interested in exploring the new course that Tamara has developed based on Dr. Neufeld’s Raising Children in a Digital World video material: Preserving Play in a Digital World. It is now available in a self-paced format through our virtual campus. For more information or to register, click here.

© 2019 The Neufeld Institute
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