I just came across something fun. Recently, in an online group, someone was asking about television for children. In my Montessori training, we learned that children under six should not have screens, so my husband and I decided to abide by that in our house. Once our younger child turned six, we began watching family movies on DVD every Friday night, but we never had any broadcast TV until they were teenagers. (I don’t remember discussing television or screens in my RIE course in 2012, so I can’t say what the opinion is there.)
So when they were five and six-years-old, someone mentioned to me that they didn’t fight much. She asked if they fought over toys. I thought about it and said they didn’t play with toys much.
She looked incredulous.
“Well, they have toys, they just tend to do more imaginative games,” I said.
Later, while we were driving, I asked my kids what games they played. I’d noticed that they always invited each other to play games with very specific titles.
The list they gave me was so long that I stopped the car to write it down. And recently it came across my desk so I’ve shared it with you here:
- Friends with Spies
- Plain Friends
- Brother & Sister
- Little Brother
- Little Sister
- Meets (“We meet each other…”)
- Little Brother Stuck in Airport (this happened to us.)
- School (but only with another family that visits)
- Friends in College
In addition to these standards, for a period of about two years, they added a question to these titles.
“With dead parents?” As in, shall we play these characters with dead parents or not? They had a friend who had lost his mother to cancer, so this became part of their play. Their friend always had lots to say about his mother’s death and they were riveted. “My Mom’s in heaven now but she can see me and watch me.”
This was fascinating to me! They were working out this very traumatic yet puzzling situation through their imaginative play. They were finding answers, trying on life’s difficulties, and becoming comfortable with different scenarios. This is what imaginative play is all about. It’s so important! But does this happen when screens are introduced early?
I just don’t see the same kind of imaginative play present unless children are allowed to develop a creative life that isn’t dictated by commercial influences. I see children who embrace the fantasy character and act out the rules based on what they’ve learned but this limits their own experience of creating and imagining.
I insisted my children read books before seeing the movies based on them which is a standard I hold for myself as well. My daughter was so inspired to read the Harry Potter books, so that she could watch the movies, she willed herself to read at age 7 and read EVERY SINGLE HARRY POTTER book, all 7 of them, in 30 days. She read day and night. She brought a flashlight to bed and read at night. When I awoke early in the morning, she was already back at it.
I just don’t think a lifetime of screens would have promoted as much imagining as I saw in my own kids. What do you think? Do you have TV in your house with little ones?