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The Child Who Could Not Play

There once was a child who could not play. The child was four years old, soon to be five. Every day, the other children in the community had great fun. There was always so much to do. Their voices could be heard as they explored various areas of the playgrounds, yards, and fields. Some children rode bikes, some played in the sand: building, cooking, delivering concoctions to the children who were playing in the forts, playhouses, and dens. Some children climbed on a structure to the stars, while others pretended to sail the wide and foamy seas. I watched with my own eyes, these children with a myriad of activities. Some imagined that they were traveling to the moon to explore its mysterious surface. Others imagined their horses had gone lame and they had to pack all their belongings and go for help. They needed a doctor for the baby, a house for shelter and someone who could tend the horses. They imagined a shady glen where they could stay and cook their food over a wood fire and make their beds under the stars. They imagined then, that a storm came, a storm so ferocious that they had to work together just to survive. And they imagined that a day dawned bright and clear, and that they were safe and that... But the child who could not play was unable to enter this land of make believe. His imagination did not seem to work. All he could do was the same thing day after day, a re-enactment of the scenes and words he had already experienced on the TV screen...chasing, shooting, knocking, kicking, pushing...hard and hurtful stuff. The teachers all said, "Please!" The children all said, "Stop!" But the power of the media heroes was firmly established. Super heroes were all consuming, and the doors to the land of make believe were closed. It has been called the "Plug In Drug." Articles have been written about the numbing effect it has on the mind, and the research certainly suggests a strong connection between TV violence, violent play, and anti-social behavior in children. Even the cable variety of TV programming has not provided the desired decrease in violent shows occuring during child viewing hours. The often quoted statistic is that the average child watches 21 hours per week and by the time the child exits elementary school, he/she will have watched 100,000 acts of televised violence. Knowing what we know, or perhaps, more importantly, reminding ourselves to remember what we know and acting upon that knowledge, can enable us to unplug the machines. We may then, help our children open the doors to creativity and imagination and to once again re-enter the land of make believe. Patsy Williams Director of Early Childhood Education The Buckley School