For children in past eras, participating in the culture of childhood was a socializing process. They learned to settle their own quarrels, to make and break their own rules, and to respect the rights of others. They learned that friends could be mean as well as kind, and that life was not always fair.
Now that most children no longer participate in this free-form experience — play dates arranged by parents are no substitute — their peer socialization has suffered. One tangible result of this lack of socialization is the increase in bullying, teasing and discrimination that we see in all too many of our schools.
David Elkind makes some compelling points about recess, play, and the culture of childhood in “Playtime is Over.” The piece is in response to a recent article about how some schools are putting in place recess coaches to help children learn how to play. Since I’ve always felt strongly that we adults needed to stay out of the kids’ way during recess, only interfering if safety is involved, Elkind’s points were striking. While there are kids experiencing childhood closer to what I experienced (as I do see them exercising their imaginations and playing as I did) there are others who are experiencing a very different one and perhaps do need the sort of help these coaches provide. Thought-provoking indeed.