Saturday, May 30, 2015

It is about Play- Digital and otherwise

I think that most early childhood experts in the last few years have been both amazed and annoyed at the "discovery" of the importance of play to all humans but especially young ones. Play it turns out, is important, maybe paramount, in developing inquiring minds, creative minds that will be flexible enough to deal with the constantly shifting environment kids seem to be growing in. But then again, we've actually known that for a long time.

Since it is summer I have been watching my younger kids at play with friends in and out of the house in a constant movement and social realignment that seems to characterize semi-supervised activities in the summer.

As you can imagine our house has quite a few devices in it for digital creation and consumption. My kids (and their friends when they come) have access to three iPads, PlayStation, three TV's, a Wii, and a laptop computer. As I have shared in the past we do have some rules about digital use. While it is summer we still have strict start and end time, although during the day they have a lot more access to devices.

What I have observed is that kids who grew up digital are constantly shifting between digital and nondigital play activities. They start the morning watching video on YouTube and Netflix a passive waking up activity. As soon as others join in they go outside and play. Yesterday after two days of planning they created a Streetside Sandwiches stand at the corner- an enhanced lemonade stand that they put all on their own including making food items, pricing, choosing location and printing out the menu.

After 4 hours of restauranteurship and a very messy kitchen they all poured back into the house, settled on the couch and played a cooperative game of Minecraft, enhancing the elaborate world they have created together bit by bit over the last few weeks. So what is my point? Well, I have two of them.

First, kids growing up digital have porous boundaries to distinguish different kinds of play. They shift easily from one mode to the next and I do not think they consider one form privileged or more authentic than the other. I believe many adults hold the notion that the physical world is REAL and the digital one IMAGINARY. I believe that for our kids the digital world is just as real and just as imaginary as the analogue one. This is their reality.

Second, given (almost) free reign to choose digital and analogue activities kids move from one to the other based on interest, the participants and other factors. That is, with very little parental guidance they choose well and do not become digital "addicts" as we sometimes worry they might become.

So let's let them play, in and out of digital worlds.



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