The Need to Entertain

I have six kids.  The three oldest are in their preteen and teenage years.  The three youngest are in their preschool/toddler years.  There is a BIG difference between the oldest three and the youngest three, when it comes to entertaining themselves.

The oldest three could play by themselves.  I have two out of the youngest three that can not. What makes the difference? Did my parenting change? Does birth order make a difference?  Or is personality a factor?  Maybe it’s our world today.

I don’t know. But I won’t have it!  Kids need to know how to entertain themselves.  They need to.  We live in a fast-paced world, with technology at our fingertips daily.  It is  so easy to be entertained.  Bored? Just pull out your phone.  You’ll find something to do.

We just came from an Easter holiday.  Think back. When you were visiting with your loved ones, how many people did you see on their phones, while you all were visiting?  I saw three.  We were all sitting around in a circle in the living room, laughing and talking.  To my left was a man with his phone out, playing some kind of game (candy crush?).  Next to him was a little girl with some sort of Ipad thingy, playing a game.  And across from me was a man with his phone out; I don’t know if he was playing a game or if he was working.  But this is while we are all together.

Adults no longer know how to just sit still and be.  We constantly have to be entertained.  Phones, tablets, computers, smart TV’s, social media, the internet….the world, literally at our fingertips, no matter where we go.  And speaking of ‘going’ – we never stay home anymore!  We overschedule ourselves.  We overschedule our teenagers.  And we overschedule our children.

We are raising the next generation to need to be entertained.  Not only do they have technology – movies, games, reading material, music and social media at their fingertips, but they also have many extra-curricular activities to choose from.  I know parents who enroll their children in everything.  The kids are in elementary school.  They take a variety of music classes, dance classes and art classes, outside of school.  They are in sports programs, outside of school.  And on days when they have no school and no classes, they still leave home to go “do something” – shopping, a movie, anything – to get out of the house.

I think parents do it to give their children opportunities that they never had.  I think parents do it to expose their children to a variety of different medias, fields, and disciplines, so that the kids can be well-rounded.  I think parents do it so that the kids can get a taste for  who they are and what they like.  Maybe they will “discover themselves” and create their own identity.  Or, maybe the kids will learn that they are really good at something and hone in on that skill, sharpening their abilities over the years, to become specialized, or professional.  Who knows, really, why parents do it.  Sometimes I wonder if moms and dads just don’t know how to be with their kids alone, and so they fill the days up, with things to do.

What happened to those long, lazy days at home? When kids played outside, or played trains?  They played restaurant, house, cars, Barbies? They knew how to pull out a book and read?  They could draw a circle in the sand and spend hours making a game out of it?  Kids could easily fill their days with a variety of activities and imaginative play.  Now they can’t go a few minutes without asking for a phone or a tablet of some sort.

Just a few generations ago, kids didn’t go anywhere. They went to school and worked on the family farm (at least, around here they did.)  They played with their siblings as their friends.  They had to entertain themselves, because there wasn’t extra money for toys and other such privileges.  They had amazing imaginations, and grew up to make our world what it is today.

What is  this generation going to do?  Will they too, grow up with amazing creativity and imagination, being able to work and produce? Will they be free thinkers, problem-solvers and possess the ability to make sound decisions?  (All skills learned from entertaining themselves with imaginative play….) Will they further advance our world?  Or will they have the need to be entertained?  Will they need to be told what to do, and when to do it?  Will they be unable to think for themselves, solve problems for themselves?  Will they follow the flow, and believe what anyone tells them?  Will they spend their days consuming, rather than producing?

I don’t think technology is a bad thing.  I don’t think smart phones, video games, movies, TV and tablets are a bad thing.  I love technology.  My kids do too.  I just know, with my youngest three children, I am going to be very careful with how much technology I allow them to use, and when.  I firmly believe that play is a child’s most important work.  Through play they learn.  Everything.  They need creative play in their day.  And they need to be able to creatively entertain themselves.  In today’s world, I think parents need to deliberately teach this.

What do you think?

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