Sawing Against The Stream

I listened to this excellent “Why Are American Teenagers So Sad and Anxious” podcast yesterday morning.

In one part, Derek Thompson discusses his “displacement” theory of childhood. Meaning as children and adolescents have spent more and more time on smart phones and other screens, there have been direct and indirect costs to their well-being. One indirect cost has been the “displacement” of play meaning much less outdoor activity with others. In the podcasters’ views, it’s difficult to underestimate the negative consequences of reduced play.

Then, in the afternoon, at mile 34 of my bike ride, I was rolling through the blueberry farms on Gull Harbor Rd. And right before hitting Boston Harbor Rd, there she was.

A 6-7 year old blonde girl who single-handedly is bucking the alone, indoor, screen life. I’ve seen her before in her backyard from Boston Harbor Rd. Her family’s compound is a chaotic mess of animals, hard panned dirt, junk including an abandoned bus, and more animals. Barefoot and dirty, if you only saw her in her backyard, you’d think it was Appalachia.

Yesterday, she was sitting on her driveway where it meets Gull Harbor Rd. Still barefoot, next to a chicken and a “Chicken Crossing” sign, she was sawing a piece of wood with a saw three-quarters her size.

The only thing that would’ve been better is if she was risking injury with a friend or two. I’m sure she has friends, but they were probably indoors on screens.

Adult Onset Seriousness

Playfulness is a wonderful attribute. One I’d like to revive.

Last Thursday afternoon. Lunch swim workout in the books. Walking across Foss Intramural Field back to the office. One of those perfect, sunny, 60-ish, post summer/pre-fall September days in the Pacific Northwest that you wish you could bottle. Frisbees filled the air.

Somewhere between young adulthood and adulthood I stopped playing frisbee. I used to be a SoCal legend in my own mind. At SoCal beaches my signature move was to huck it way above the waves like a boomerang into the onshore wind and then, hours, minutes, maybe 15 seconds later, catch it to the delight of hundreds, my girlfriend and a few other friends, myself. I don’t think our frisbee even survived the recent move.

Somewhere in adulthood I stopped playing, not just frisbee, everything it seems. Yes, swimming, running, and cycling can be child-like activities, but not the way I tend to do them. I train. I have distance and time goals. And tiny gps-enabled computers and apps that tell me how far, how fast, and many other things in between. Yesterday I ran home from church, 7.5 miles in 56 minutes and change, for a 7:30/m average (first half, downhill). At one point, I saw two good friends walking the opposite direction. We said “hello”, and even though we haven’t talked for a month, I kept going. You know, the average pace and all.

Hell, I don’t even PLAY golf anymore. And I’m not alone. Do any adults ever think “What a nice day, I should ask the rest of the office to chuck the frisbee for awhile.”? And yet, nothing is more natural for young adults on college campuses than to stop and play.

How to cultivate a playful spirit? What might my swimming, running, and cycling look like if I approached them as play? What about other non-work activities?

Before you suggest low hanging fruit like mountain biking, you should know I sometimes struggle staying upright even on intermediate trails. With that caveat, I’m open to any other suggestions.

What do you do, if anything to maintain a sense of playfulness?

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Read This If. . .

You enjoy iconoclasts, craft beer, and independent businesses—Dick Cantwell’s Beer is Immortal (Allecia Vermillion).

You think we’ve ruined kindergarten. The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland (Tim Walker).

You wonder what makes dogs happy. Hint: The answer is in their tails. The secret lives of dogs: Emotional sensor helps owners understand their pup’s feelings (Michael Walsh).

Exploration and Play

Slate e-zine article of note, “Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School“. Subtitle—New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

Add turning preschool into pre-pre-first grade to the list of “fork in the woods” ripple effects.

The article begs several questions in addition to the primary rhetorical one—In the interest of wide-ranging more natural learning, and greater creativity, should preschoolers be given more opportunities for exploration and play?

Questions such as—In the interest of wide-ranging more natural learning, and greater creativity, should kindergartners be given more opportunities for exploration and play?

And in the interest of wide-ranging more natural learning, and greater creativity, should elementary, middle, and high school students be given more opportunities for exploration and play?

For extra credit, here’s an interesting, related, two-part book review essay.