Humor: One woman's plea for more organized playtime

Forget the experts who say kids need unstructured recreation. I once had it. Now I can't dance, play the violin, skate, do karate, or speak in public.

OH, JOY. Another story lamenting the lack of unstructured playtime, this one appearing recently in The New York Times Magazine. You know the kind I mean. They quote experts who wistfully recall the days when children watched cloud formations and wiggled their toes in the sand. They warn us that today's children are losing out, aren't imaginative enough, and are overly dependent on organized activities.

Well, call me misguided, but I'm living proof that the benefits of unstructured playtime are overblown. Having spent a childhood chasing bugs with nothing to show for it, I've decided to campaign for more structure, not less.

I admit it was fun, the mud pies, the backyard plays, the tree climbing. Sure, those lazy summer days provided me with a few good memories. But that's about it. I can't dance, play the violin, skate, do karate, or speak in public. On the other hand, overly structured children (OSCs) excel at a variety of activities. They play Bach sonatas, swim laps, play tennis, ski, lift weights, and draw like Leonardo da Vinci. Chinese? No problem.

My proposed program, "No Child Left Unstructured," would guarantee that all children, no matter how underprivileged, would reap the benefits of the overly structured lifestyle. Schools that fail to provide structure before school, during school, and after school would be put on probation.

I would do away with recess, dodge ball, and duck duck goose. If these "play experts" are worried about childhood obesity, let's eliminate the mother of all unstructured activities – the lunch period. The money we'd save on those crabby lunchroom monitors could be put toward preschool Suzuki lessons.

Who writes these studies on play anyway? Are any of them parents? Are we really better off having our boys wile away their summer afternoons playing pickup basketball games in neighborhood parks when Japanese kids are in school all day? After all, isn't that why we have "summer" school? Let's allocate more funds to those schools that provide the most after-summer-school summer activities.

"No Child Left Unstructured" will also reduce crime because every child in America will always be busy. A child with time to spare would be considered politically incorrect and an embarrassment to his parents.

Finally, the younger the children are when the scheduling begins the sooner these lucky children will become accustomed to the satisfying life of the OSA, an overly structured, van-driving, taker-to-lesson, picker-upper, sitting-on-the-soccer-sidelines ... adult.

Janine Wood is a homemaker and writer in Deerfield, Ill.

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