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The state of children’s play

Many children are 'at risk' because of misuses of their free time and parents and economic situations are most often to blame, show studies by researchers of the departments of Leisure Studies at the University of Illinois and University of Georgia....
February 1, 1996

Many children are ‘at risk’ because of misuses of their free time and parents and economic situations are most often to blame, show studies by researchers of the departments of Leisure Studies at the University of Illinois and University of Georgia.

The misuse of free time falls into two distinct and extreme categories: children with no free time and children with too much and both suffer equally.

At present, in the U.S. a large number of children live over-scheduled lives. Gone are the days of carefree play that is synonymous with childhood freedom. These children tend to live in households where their parents have the financial resources to involve them in some kind of activity or skill development program and often go overboard in an effort to give them more advantages in an increasingly competitive world. Child psychologist David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child, notes that children whose lives are constantly structured can eventually show signs of severe stress and often resist any new structured activities.

At the other end of the spectrum is a larger group of children who have too little structure in their free time. These kids have the time but lack the recreational resources to develop new skills and often lack an environment that provides feedback on the appropriateness of various actions, say the researchers.

Though drastically different situations, children experiencing either extreme often suffer equally and they may eliminate opportunities for the development of higher creativity and problem solving skills.

For more information contact: Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Georgia, (404) 542-5064 or Department of Leisure Studies, University of Illinois, (217) 333-4410.

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