I recently came across a large number of online comments from mothers whose children apparently still play with toys at the age of 12 or 13 (though they apparently keep it under the radar of their friends). As anyone who has been following my blog will know I tend to circle back to the theme of age appropriateness quite frequently and this selection of posts, found when doing a simple google search about the average age at which children stop playing, really caught my attention.
Both my kids are too young for me to have real experience of the stopping play phenomenon so aside from the odd pre-teen sneaking into the shop so their friends don’t see I was kind of in the dark as to how late kids seem to really be playing. It’s fantastic and sad all at once: fantastic because my faith in play and in the perseverance of child-like nature has been restored but it’s sad because these older children and teens feel the need to hide their activities from friends who, by the sounds of things, are doing exactly the same thing. I suppose this state of affairs would also be humorous if it wasn’t for the inevitable fact that we can imagine a serious amount of over-compensation on the part of these older players, not to mention the missed opportunity of shared play.
One post I saw on a parenting forum was by a 14 year old girl who still played with dolls, this wasn’t one of these teens who fantasise about being a young mum (as you might see on Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer), the dolls she played with were more the dress-up variety and if I remember correctly they were from the sylvanian family range.
Playing lets us break away (a little) from our preconceptions about how the world works and instead we can play out how we would like the world to be. If these kids could somehow find each other then this could turn into a really great experience for them: rather than feel ashamed about something completely natural and plunging themselves into the world of the pre-adult (filled with violent, sexual and otherwise ‘grown up’ themes) they could enjoy a few more years of fantasy before they are forced to face the harsh realities of the adult world.
We glamourise the adult world either intentionally or unintentionally. The media can make adulthood look like a special club with special privileges with the admission fee being your childhood. More and more kids seem to be paying this admission willingly and turning away from childish things but looking at those parenting forums this really is just for show, they simply cannot hide the fact that they are still children and where they should feel proud of a wholly unique perspective on the world they instead feel the need to hide their nature and act like mini adults.
To those kids who apparently are living a double life please don’t hide your enjoyment of toys and play, there are tons of us who do it, trust me you’re in good company.
(Picture used above comes from http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/entertainment/film_and_cinema/s/2086262_walton_teens_lego_film_to_grace_us_festival an article about a young film maker that specialises in using lego)