piece comes to us from Sam Flatman, an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing school playground equipment for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which should be integrated into the school curriculum at every opportunity.
Should We Shelter Our Children From The News? by Sam Flatman
Is the world really such a horror show?
With fresh reports of terrorist action hitting our TV screens each week, the media would have us all believe that the world is fast becoming a complete dystopia. But are these stories something we should be keeping from our children?
The Future’s All Doom And Gloom
Hyperbole has always been a major component of news broadcasts. While horrific events may occur at any given moment around the world, they don’t necessarily add up to widespread chaos and total global ruin. When so-called experts discuss the fallout of these events, they are, more often than not, speculating.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned. It’s only natural to see the attacks in Paris or Turkey and assume the worst for your own country. However, it’s not necessarily a narrative we want our children to grow up obsessing over. The news encourages us to be constantly vigilant – to always treat unknown circumstances as suspicious. If a child was to follow this advice, mistrusting every new experience, they’d never have a chance to develop into functional, well-reasoning adults. So: what’s the best way to dispel the fearmongering terrorism creates?
Pretend Play Rationalizes Real Life
A recent study suggests that children who are given the opportunity to digest and understand current affairs are better equipped to deal with them as adults. In fact, children have already adopted their own mechanism for coping with such sensitive issues: pretend play. While some parents might be keen to avoid exposure completely, it’s naive to think a child can be sheltered from certain events forever. Eventually, through conversations at school or TV at a friend’s house, children will discover the truth. Your duty as a parent is to give them every opportunity to come to terms with it rationally.
Typically, children learn to communicate through play long before they perfect the use of language. While adults gain emotional perspective through discussion, children engage with complicated issues through the filter of imaginative play. By denying them the chance to exercise this power, we risk stunting their emotional understanding. Terrorism is not a playful subject, but finding ways to rationalize it makes it easier for children to deal.
In war-torn countries such as Israel and Syria, children have been pictured using toys to reconstruct the devastation that is being caused to their homeland. These children repeat a scenario over and over again with varying outcomes, until they are satisfied with every possible conclusion. Even if their Lego city is eventually saved from the bombs by Superman and the rest of the Justice League, they find a way to hypothesize their safety. The aim of pretend play isn’t to dumb down the atrocity of war, it’s to find a way of humanizing it – even if, in a child’s mind, it takes more than a human to rectify the problem.
Pretend play is nature’s way of strengthening emotional intelligence and can inspire our children to discover new ways to deal with the world’s horrors. The media would have us all bunker down in the backyard. Instead, we must ensure that our children know how to separate the fact from the fabricated, so that they may grow up to be educated, caring individuals.