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Playing pretend and make believe: do children still do it?

My friend came across an interesting group of children the other day. She was babysitting them and asked if they wanted to play pretend. The answer dumbfounded her. They didn't know what playing pretend was.

This got me thinking. On the one hand, there are some parents who say that college starts in kindergarden, and will put money and effort into making sure their children go to pre-schools that teach skills that could possibly put them above their peers come kindergarden.

On the other hand, we live in one of the most interesting times in human history. Most children, from the moment they are born, have access to television, and apps on smartphones that are easy enough for them to operate.

I never grew up with a smartphone in my life like my little cousin who is 8. He plays Angry birds on his dad's iphone whenever we get together at holiday parties and whatnot. My first game system was a N64 when I was about 10, and the internet (dial up) when I was about 12. I didn't get a computer until I was in the seventh grade.

I grew up playing the backyard with a plastic sword and a cap rifle from disneyland, or in the living room with a wooden train set. With young children being exposed to all this constantly, it makes me wonder if imagination is dead, or if it just has become something else. I'm not sure. What are your thoughts on it?


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  • Apr 28 2013: This is a very interesting topic. I've noticed that in this current era, with technology all over, children aren't left alone with their own thoughts anymore. Creativity and imagination only come alive when the physical world ceases to entertain us, so we make up things in our head to make reality more enjoyable. Children don't "play" anymore, simple as that. Kids these days want Ipads and technology, not toys.
    • Apr 28 2013: I'm not saying it's dead necessarily. I'm sure children watching a tv show will daydream and think about going on an adventure with their heros. What I'm saying is they take those ideas and use them as a base for their adventures instead of making up their own if that makes sense. Because they're exposed to all this media so young, again not saying it's bad, but because of it, their creative process to me is stunted because they don't come up with original ideas necessarily.

      Now on that note there's a big difference between how children use imagination when they are alone and how they use it with others.
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        Apr 28 2013: I think children always have been influenced in their character play by characters with which they are acquainted. In the early days of television and thereafter, it might have been television characters. In the days prior, they might have been influenced by comic book heroes and the types from fairy tales- princesses, knights, witches, elves, cowboys... in addition to imaginary friends and creatures that live in closets, toys that come alive... Purely by way of anecdote, the characters that have animated the play in my house over these many years are not media connected. There are two, shall we say, whole civilizations populated by characters clearly not drawn from media that have become the stuff of songs, poetry, drama, visual art, and legend. There is an additional community I might call "retired" that was based on an easily constructed origami geometric shape.
        • Apr 28 2013: You know I didn't think of it that way, that's quite the brilliant insight.
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          Apr 29 2013: RE: "I am also not personally. . . " Agreed. By the age of 16 the pretending playtime should have been replaced with more focused, factual thought patterns and habits. That does NOT mean imagination should be laid to rest.

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