Monday, July 14, 2008

The Case for Make-Believe by Susan Linn

iconiconI heard about this book, The Case for Make-Believe by Susan Linn, via an article about children's play on USAToday.com. Since I have a background in teaching preschool and after school programs, and since I've always believed myself that creative play is important for children's development, I was particularly interested in what Susan Linn had to say about it.

As it happens, Linn's book completely supports my own viewpoints on creative play versus video games and TV. She comes down pretty hard on baby and toddler videos such as Baby Einstein, setting the record straight about its benefits (watching TV that young has a detrimental impact on development) and exposing its misleading marketing (no, listening to Mozart does not make your baby smarter).

She also comes down hard on the state of kids' toys these days. For one thing, most toys aren't very open-ended, as they are often electronic and only have a limited purpose. For instance, a baby doll that cries or asks for Mama is only good for that, and as a result kids end up making it cry and say "Mama" over and over, rather than playing pretend games with it like they would with a regular baby doll. One thing she says that I really like is, "A good toy is 90 percent child and only 10 percent toy."

And of course, she talks about the awful impact that TV, video games, and computer games are having on children's development. Linn takes the position that make-believe gives kids a chance to play out things that might be bothering them — so when you plunk kids down in front of even a mildly violent cartoon, you are giving them more things to be bothered about and less opportunity to play it out and relieve that bother. Linn advocates delaying a young child's first introduction to TV and video games as long as humanly possible, and I totally agree.

This is an excellent book to read if you are expecting a child or planning to start trying for one, because it encourages you to think about your own approach to parenting before you have the child. However, I also recommend it for those who are already parents, because it's never too late to encourage your child to play!

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