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Published: Saturday, 8/18/2007

Working Too Hard At Playtime


6 AM

My column today references the Parents Choice Foundation, and I have to add here that I ve long found this organization to be terrific. As the Web site explains:

While teaching a graduate seminar in children's literature, author and educator Diana Huss Green pulled together a small discussion group of parents who felt their rigorous standards for their children's education were not being fulfilled.

The mandate of the discussion group was clear: create for parents a non-commercial clearinghouse of supplementary media experiences and learning products.

Diana Huss Green established Parents Choice Foundation on the following beliefs:

* Reading is our children's key to the world's histories, literatures, arts and sciences.

* Accomplishment is essential to self-esteem.

* Learning requires discipline.

Confused about why one toy might be better than another? Look here.

Wondering why folks make such a big deal out of child s play in the first place? Here

is a lucid break-down, which says in part:

Adults often recall the low-tech imaginative play of their own childhoods with a kind of wistfulness, as if it's impossible for today s kids to enjoy bird-watching, making clothes for dolls, or planning backyard variety shows with their friends. Children don't lack interest or ability. More likely, they simply don't have the time and encouragement to play in ways that might require a bit of planning, practice and flights of imagination.

All of which makes you say to yourself, Well, golly, we probably have GREAT toys just sitting around the house already, right?


In an article about the undiscovered obvious , Parents Choice helps you keep it simple and real:

Try a couple of pounds of clay, plus a rolling pin, cookie cutters, and texture-producing items like a strainer, grater, and potato-masher. Or assemble several packs of construction paper, plus scissors and a hole-puncher; maybe add paste and a scrapbook.

Squares of felt can be combined either with yarn and needle for stitchery, with scissors and glue for collages, or with dried beans (back at the supermarket) to make beanbags.

A yard or more of plain white vinyl is the basis of a playmat for floor play. Add permanent-color markers so a child can paint a cityscape or landscape on which cars, trucks, planes, trains, play people, and animals can move. Contact paper could also be used to represent roads, grassland, train tracks, and other features of the terrain.

Finally (and as always), I don t think anyone explains issues better than The Onion, that satirical newspaper that can often sound frighteningly real. Get to this article, Experts Call for Restrictions on Childhood Imagination, via CNN. Read all about the expert who warns that:

children can suffer broken bones, head trauma, and even fatal injuries from unsupervised exposure to childlike awe. If your children are allowed to unlock their imaginations, anything from a backyard swing set to a child's own bedroom can be transformed into a dangerous undersea castle or dragon's lair, [the expert] said.

But by encouraging your kids to think linearly and literally, and constantly reminding them they can never be anything but human children with no extraordinary characteristics, you can better ensure that they will lead prolonged lives.

Of course, The Onion includes helpful preventive tips, too:

Although no cure has yet been developed for childhood imagination, preventative measures can deter children from potentially hazardous bouts of make-believe.

Many of the suggestions are really quite simple, like breaking down cardboard boxes or sewing cushions to couches so they cannot be converted into forts or playhouses

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