Do kids nowadays need to be taught how to play?

When I was a child, I learned how to play games from other children.

No adult taught me how to play tag or dodge ball or Quaker meeting [1] or hide and go seek or even baseball.  I learned them all from other children.

I learned the rules of fair play from other children.  All games have rules.  If you didn’t play by the rules, other kids wouldn’t want to play with you.

Playworks supervised play

Playworks supervised play

Now I learn there is a company called Playworks that offers services as a “recess consultant.”   It organizes school recess to create “more inclusive and structured playtime” to create a “quality playtime experience” that will enable children to be more successful adults.   I am not making this up.

I see two possible ways to look at this—one bad and one worse.

The merely bad possibility is that this is a typical bureaucratic scheme to take all the spontaneity out of life.

The worse possibility is that companies such as Playworks actually are needed—that adults organize children’s time so thoroughly that they literally don’t know how to play, only how to take part in organized activities.

That’s why so many kids nowadays are devoted to their Smartphones.  The Internet is the only realm where they can be free of adult supervision.

Now I don’t see any evidence of this on my street.  I see hopscotch chalk marks on the sidewalks, the same as when I was a child.  I see kids playing ball and doing other normal kid things.

They are more under the eyes of adults than when I was a child.  But the world is a more dangerous place—or if not more dangerous, a more fearsome place—than it was then.

But the people who live on my street are normal people.  They are not part of the class who think that money and social rank are the be-all and end-all of life, and who organize their children’s lives so as to make them eligible for the elite university that will make them eligible for the highest-paying, highest-prestige position in life.  If I had been the child of such a family, maybe I would have had to be instructed in how to play.


Two Edina elementaries hire recess consultant by Beena Raghavendran for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.   (Hat tip to Unqualified Offerings).

Recess Consultants.  Seriously by Peter Greene for CURMUDGUCATION.


How to Play Quaker Meeting

Quaker meeting is a game I played when I was six to eight years old.

Play begins with the child who is “It” saying –

Quaker meeting has begun.

No more talking, no more fun.

No more chewing chewing gum.

The player all sit and try to look as solemn as they can.  The one who is “It” engages in antics to make them smile or laugh.  The first one to break down and smile becomes “It”.  Cycle and repeat.

Children probably wouldn’t be allowed to play such a game nowadays because of the unfair caricature of the upstanding Society of Friends.  But I got a lot of pleasure out of it, and I would hate for it to be forgotten.

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