There seems to be a lot of lamenting these days, that our children's childhood looks nothing like our own.
Children are still children
It's true that our children tend to have more screen time and less green time, more toys but less genuine play, are more scheduled and have less freedom. There have been undeniable changes to society in those few short decades since we were young, but the truth is that children themselves haven't really changed. They still have the same physical and emotional needs, and the same play urges we had. They may be spending more time in care outside of the home than we did, but they still have a deep need to connect. Yes, they can use electronics we had no knowledge of, but that is because they are still doing exactly what we did - imitating and fitting into the life they are a part of. Life has changed, but at their core, children are still children.
Are they bored or are we boring?
We can lament the changes, romanticising our own play pasts and seeing all the ‘lack’ in our children’s as something irreversible. OR we can take conscious action to bridge the gap between our experiences and theirs.
Often, we expect our children to be the change makers. We expect them to play more, with less of the ‘stuff’ they’ve become accustomed to, and we think there's something wrong with them when they can't. Our children are actually just living in the way they know how, in the time and place they find themselves in. They need us to take a role if we want them to experience life differently. They need us to put our own electronics down from time to time and show them a new game. They may need us to help them get started with more imaginative play objects until they get the knack.
We need to head outdoors with them. We can fill them up with stories of our own games and favourite pastimes, not out of frustration and given as a lecture about entitlement and gratitude, but out of a genuine desire to share and let them into our experience.
It's up to us!
We need to realise that if there is a gulf between our childhoods that we want filled, it’s up to us. We can put more of what we valued so much in.
We tend to think that now our children have been exposed to technology it's all they'll want. Yes, if it's all they know. But we can help them know more.
They likely love the iPad, but children are still children and they also will love puddles, highlighter pens, building dens, treasure hunts, games of spotlight, and sliding down hills on plastic sheets if these things are offered and celebrated. All we need to do is provide the environment and the opportunities, they will do the rest.