10 Jun Want Mature Kids? Let Them Play!
I was a Biology major in college. To see me now, no one would ever believe it. You won’t find me working in a hospital or huddled over test tubes in a lab. I’m not a scientist. I’ll never be a doctor. Nevertheless, I learned something about the way people work–and more importantly–the way people play.
University of Evansville. Freshman Year. Animal Behavior. Front row. Second seat from the left. I scribbled notes almost as fast as Dr. Schroeder talked. He told fascinating stories about everything from wasps to monkeys. I remember this one assignment where all we had to do was go to the zoo, pick out an animal with babies, and just watch them for like two hours. I chose a family of cranes, and I could have stayed there all day.
It doesn’t matter the animal—a bird or a dog or a human—all of them have children that play. And what are they doing with all that playtime? They’re figuring out how to be adults. The technical term is “maturation.” I bet you didn’t even know that word was a scientific one!
Now that I’m a parent, I understand how purposeful play fosters healthy development. The things our kids are doing in their free time aren’t random. In fact, what they do matters—a lot. If you watch children very closely and give them enough time, you’ll see them work out conflict, solve complex problems, and express compassion toward their comrades.
But did you know that empathy among America’s young people is actually at an all-time low? Perhaps it’s because they have less free time than ever. Or maybe it’s because our kids interact more with electronics than they do with real live humans.
Parents, what if there were a way to restructure some of that precious, albeit all too scarce, playtime in the hopes of recouping the compassion and empathy that are the hallmark of a healthy person, a strong nation?
When we created ForeverWE, we did it with our children in mind. We saw that they’re naturally compassionate and searching for ways to help others. Unfortunately, their parents often lack the resources or time to figure out how to connect with the people that could most use their help. With our first little doll, the one that will raise money to help cure pediatric cancer, we see two children. One child is sick, maybe fighting for her life. She feels alone. Another child is healthy, wishing she could do something to help. The doll and book are the bridge between the two girls. They function as a conversation starter and also as a means for nurturing compassion.
If we want to live together with meaning and purpose, we’re going to have to give our children opportunities to figure out how to do it well.
You’re already going to buy your kids a toy this year. Why not make it one that meets a real, felt need? Why not make it one that promotes community and friendship? Why not make it one that will actually fund the solutions to some of our greatest sources of community hardship?
We’re not so different from the cranes at the zoo.
And yet we are.
Dr. Schroeder said there’s one way that humans are different. One very important difference.
We’re intentional. Our conscience guides our actions.
What will yours tell you to do today?
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