In a small, black and white photo taken sometime in 1950’s Australia, my father and his brother sit beaming in their homemade wooden billy carts. 66 years later, this image provokes a strong reaction of nostalgia and memories of a time when children had daily opportunities to access the world of their imaginations free from the noise of technology and electronic devices.
In the photo, my father wears what looks like a soldier’s helmet, but on closer inspection is probably a pudding bowl stolen from his Mother’s kitchen. My Uncle wears an imitation knight’s helmet. Their faces beam as they look into the lens of the camera, and I can almost hear them urging my Grandmother to hurry up and take the picture so they can race! What makes a good photo is the story behind it, and its here, quietly in the background, that I’m taken back in time.
I can see them working together in my Grandfather’s garage, sawing and hammering the pieces of timber to create the cart they’ve worked hours on to design. I can see them racing out of the garage bursting with excitement as they seek out the biggest hill in their neighbourhood and, with hearts beating rapidly, full of anticipation and adrenalin, give a few strong pushes, lift their feet and ‘whoosh!’ they were flying!
Elated and exhausted, I can see them telling breathless stories of their adventures around the family dinner table before bedtime where, feeling like the bravest boys in the world, they’d drift into the deep sleep of children after a long day of play.
Sound idyllic? I may have a case of nostalgia, and my rose coloured glasses set firmly over my eyes, but it begs the question, will our children in 2016 experience the same freedom in play as their grandparents before them?
I recently read an article about an experiment carried out where children between the ages of 12 and 18 voluntarily spent 8 hours alone, with no electronic devices, no means of communication, no television etc. The results, though not surprising, were confronting to say the least.
“Today’s generation of young people are too often entertained by things not of their making, are incapable of finding ways to keep themselves busy, and are completely unfamiliar with the idea of the world of their imagination.” Child psychologist Yekaterina Murashova
We live in a technological age; this is fact. This technology and our access to it has as long a list of pros as it does cons. But where does ‘real life’ get lost in the portrayal of our ‘virtual lives’? My father and his billy cart making was undisturbed by status updates, social validation (the ever present ‘like’ button), or an over enthusiastic parent uploading carefully curated images, enhanced by the perfect filer and hashtag #freeplay. It was just that; FREE PLAY.
I wonder when playing Beethoven via an app to an unborn baby in utero became a replacement for the soothing sound of a Mother’s voice? When did sitting amongst a pile of wooden blocks and building a castle to the sky, get replaced with touching icons on a screen to make the castle rise? Are we faced with such pressure for progress and success, that anxious parents, wanting to do the right thing by their child, worry that play is a waste of time unless it has structure or an obvious educational benefit?
How do we, as parents, strike a balance so that our children have just enough exposure to technology along with the need for solitude, independent play and total freedom in imagination and creativity?
I actually think that the answer is simple. TIME. Time for them to explore the worlds of their minds, and access to simple, natural play materials to help express it. There’s a time and a place for technology, but equally so, there must also be time, more time, dedicated to an unplugged childhood. Children do not require constant entertainment; in fact we do them a great disservice if we scramble to keep them constantly engaged. They have a universe inside them, if only we offer them space from the ‘noise’ of modern life so they can hear it. Listen to it. Explore it.
As adults, perhaps too it is a lesson for us, in our busy and distracted lives, to slow down, switch off and engage more. Little eyes are always watching and learning the behaviours we model.
Little Joey Toy Co was born from a belief that our children have the opportunity to move the human race forward with kindness and compassion. If we teach our children when they’re young to have a rich inner world, provide them the opportunity for imaginative play and to connect with their extended communities, then perhaps we’ll see a generation rise who will lift society; take the headphones out of their ears, look up from their phones and engage with the world around them, bringing with them innovation, energy and a curiosity born from a truly free childhood.
Read the full article here: http://brightside.me/article/a-thought-provoking-experiment-showed-what-happens-when-children-dont-have-the-internet-for-a-whole-day-42855/