When Did Play Become A Crime?

Contributed by JC Boushh

Schools ban tag and dodge ball, Homeowner’s Associations forbid children from playing outdoors without adult supervision, and now British Police investigate the crime of drawing hopscotch markings with chalk on public sidewalks. When did children’s play become a crime? Many blame the death of children’s free-play on liability and the fear of litigation. While others argue that overprotective parents and sedentary lifestyles are key contributors to the loss of free-play. Richard Louv author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder writes; “As a powerful deterrent to natural play, fear of liability ranks right behind the bogeyman.” It was not too long ago that vacant lots and creeks providing children with endless opportunities for play and exploration, but in today’s litigious and risk adverse society they are fenced off and covered with “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” signs.

When will today’s adults truly understand the nature of free-play and the societal value of children’s play? Play affects the personality, character, and abilities of every child, and therefore greatly influences the type of adults they become. With the loss of children’s free-play during non-school hours, recess may be the only setting in a child’s daily life for some children to actively play with their peers. Research shows that when children do not play they very rarely develop into happy and healthy adults.