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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Surf Excel is a company that makes some of the world’s leading brands of laundry detergent, so I bet you are quick to make the same association I did: Surf Excel equals clean. Right? Are you with me??

We’re both wrong. At least, we’re wrong about “clean” being a theme in the new Kids Today Project they’ve undertaken. Instead of trying to clean up kids, Surf Excel says that Dirt is Good. Here’s what the company has to say about the project:

Our product has different names in different countries, but we are united by our belief that “dirt is good”.

Getting dirty is a part of everyone’s childhood, and dirty laundry is a part of life for every family. We see dirt as a positive thing. Dirt is proof that we are living life, participating, exploring and experiencing – something kids today encounter less than our generation did.

Personally, I think that’s wonderful. Kids need play and get dirty. They need to exercise their creativity and work with others to accomplish great things, like imaginary adventures and crazy games. Those activities are a crucial part of child development, and the world is a better place when we grow up people who’ve had the time and space to just play.

It’s very easy as parents to schedule every minute of our kids’ days, to be so focused on the goals of adulthood that we miss out on the needs of childhood.

As a homeschooler, I have tended to be more relaxed in many regards (although I know some who are much, much more relaxed….it’s a whole spectrum). But one of the consequences of that is a constant niggling worry that they’re not doing enough. Only conscious attention to the issue has kept the worry from becoming a fear. In fact, I had a couple of heated discussions just last week with boys who were bored and wanted me to let them turn on a screen. When I said no, I was even informed that “This doesn’t make any sense.” and, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I had just finished telling him that boredom was good for the soul.

I cannot WAIT for the day that each of them finally understands what I was talking about and hears themselves saying the same thing to their own children.

Heh. It’s hopeful thoughts like that and the resulting laugh fest I’m planning on that gets me through the day sometimes.

Annnyhow. Surf Excel has this super neat project called Kids Today. There are already 6 videos on YouTube. The first one is here. They’re all fairly short, but very well done and I enjoyed them. Of course, I did take the opportunity to entertain just a little guilt when I learned that some children are spending more time studying than their parents are working. That definitely isn’t what is happening here. Then I reassured myself that it’s okay to have relaxed children.

I really enjoyed the video where the expert talks about the importance of play and how research is backing up that claim. But my all-time favorite has to be “What’s It Like to Be a Child?” episode. They actually invented a headband camera that children can wear while they play. It would be SO much fun to take that to our homeschool co-op and strap it on different aged children to see what happens.

So is play a good thing? Oh yea! I think so. I’m happy to have kids who enjoy playing. Granted, a good deal of that involves screens; but it’s quite common to see all sorts of games happening.

Last night we were chatting with the older boys and a tennis ball was getting tossed back and forth. I challenged them to play left-handed which led to a lot of laughter and competition. Then, it was ON. Near the end of the game, they were trying to throw and catch the ball using only 2 fingers. That’s a lot harder than it sounds! By then, Hubby and the younger boys were playing. I was just laughing. As the cliche goes: A good time was had by all.

Nearly every day the younger boys will ask if they can go play a game. What that means is they’re going to go to their room, close the door, and act out a complex story that they invent as they go. I’ve never been invited to join a story, but that’s okay. I love that they love to do it. Usually they play for 5 or 10 minutes, then they’re all recharged and ready to go back to schoolwork. It really helps balance the day. Without it, I believe that we’d have a lot more frustration and grumpy behavior. Instead, boys are energized and cheerful. Those are good things.

So how much time do your children spend playing in an unstructured way? And what do they do with their time? Inquiring minds want to know!

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their kids to grow through play.