Monday, December 22, 2008

We interrupt this educational program for pure unadulterated FUN!

With Christmas morning quickly approaching, I am preparing for the inevitable invasion of my home. No I'm not talking about the in laws, I am referring to the onslaught of all sorts of toys, electronic or otherwise that my children will receive. The biggest "intruder" will come in the form of a Wii. Now, my husband and I have resisted having a gaming system in the house (even at this late hour I still question our decision) but we decided to forge ahead anyway. The evils of Square Boxes have certainly been a discussion topic in our house in the past but the imminent introduction of a Wii has escalated talks to the point we may need to call in the United Nations to draft a treaty. When can the children play? For how long? What games are appropriate? Do they get more time on "educational" game vs "non-educational games"? ... You get the idea

This same line of thinking prompted me to throw a question about my two oldests' favourite new internet game, Proptopica 's, appropriateness into the Twittersphere the other day. One strategy that was suggested as a way to help choose games to allow the kids to play was to have them "convince me of the educational value" of whatever they wanted to play. This sounded like a great idea. It would encourage higher level thinking, forming an argument, and learning to evaluate appropriateness for themselves. Not to mention personal responsibility and self discipline. Win, win, win situation.

I still think it is a great strategy, however, I wonder, does every activity need to have "educational value". Is there no room left in a child's life for pure, unadulterated, non-educational, time-wasting FUN? Have we analyzed, structured, and sheltered the fun right out of being a kid? There are probably a lot of experts (and kids) that would answer that last question with a resounding "YES". While we monitor what our children do online can we, honestly, say that every activity we engage in while on the computer is "educational" or "worthwhile". I know I can't. Seems like a bit of a double standard.

So I'm calling off the UN's treaty negotiation team and embarking on a little experiment. When the Wii comes out of the box this Christmas it will come with no restrictions, rules or regulations. Well maybe one -- have fun, be silly, be a kid!! Maybe I'll even find a way to follow that rule too! My suspicion is that, left to their own devices and given a range of activities to choose from, they will find a balance (after the initial gorging that is). The problem starts when they have no other activity to choose. I am confident if the temperature ever raises above -20c they will ditch Wii Ski for a trip to the local hill in a minute. But who knows, I could be wrong -- maybe I better keep the UN on standby...just in case.

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