Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World
A Community Conversation
On Tuesday, February 7th, a group of parents, grandparents and childcare professionals came together for Hilltown Families’ Roundtable Discussion: Creative Free Play in a Commercialized World to discuss a variety of subjects related to the theme of creative free play in a commercialized world, a continuation of the presentation Hilltown Families hosted before the holidays with Dr. Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe and Consuming Kids.
The roundtable was a lively discussion with a variety of perspectives and ideas for empowerment. One point reiterated several times during the conversation was the importance of communication. Caring about the impact of media on our kids and their growing minds, we need to talk to them about commercialization, helping them navigate our media saturated world by pointing out advertising and marketing strategies geared toward children. Proactive ways parents can communicate with their kids include watching the same TV shows/movies their children are watching, or exploring the internet with them, giving parents opportunities to find teachable moments and openings for engagement in dialog.
One idea that came out of our discussion on how parents can make their kids savvy to the marketing strategies of corporate marketers was to take a walk with them through a big box grocery store in search of movie or television characters on products placed at their eye level, then talk about why these characters are on these products in these locations. Another idea was to choose non-commercial educational videos and apps for children when consuming media. Video series like the Liberty Kids to supplement Colonial Studies, or Bill Nye the Science guy to supplement science studies were suggested.
CREATIVE FREE PLAY
As always, the notion of involving children in real world activities as much as possible is the antidote to too much media consumption, and Hilltown Families provides a comprehensive list of events each week for families that supports this practice. Providing opportunities for creative free play that enhances imagination is essential. A recent event at a local family center utilizing empty boxes for play was a perfect example. Ironically, allowing children to be bored can often lead to creative solutions. Several parents related stories of the most creative play originating out of moments of boredom resulting in toilet paper roll towers or made up stories exercising the imagination.
Related subjects discussed included:
- violence and inappropriate language in media
- sexualization in media and the impact on girls
- children who are not exposed to certain media feeling left out among peers
- over-scheduling of childhood
- older teens/young adults and the over-use of Facebook
- tensions from protecting our children from the impacts of commercialization in a media saturated world versus creating opportunities for dialog and critical thinking
A couple of resources were recommended to empower parents with young girls who struggle with the challenges they face. The book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World was recommended to parents with tween aged girls. And the video from the Dove Self Esteem Campaign Ad “Evolution,” which shows how models are photoshopped, was suggested as a video to screen with girls (and boys) to illustrate how the current ideal of beauty is manufactured and promoted through media.
The discussion was concluded with an invitation to parents and professionals who have ideas/thoughts on how to empower our community and children on these topics to work with Hilltown Families to share and grow these ideas. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. And please continue to be part of the ongoing dialog about the importance of creative free play and helping our children navigate a commercialized world. To receive updates and notices on events and opportunities on this topic, share with us your email and we will keep you posted:
Big thank you to Northampton Public Schools for co-sponsoring this month’s discussion, and to Cup & Top Cafe for hosting.
[Image credit: (ccl) Monette Enriquez]