There seems to have been talk recently – and a few books on the subject – about children losing the ability to use their imagination and about kids living in cocooned inside worlds, with nothing but electronic games to amuse themselves.
Whilst I disagree with some of the more dramatic (hysterical?) statements concerning the demise of real, active and experience-filled, learning childhoods, I am in agreement (as I think I have stated before) with the people who suggest that an outdoor play-time led childhood is the more beneficial one to be experienced.
The topic of cubby houses has been in my mind lately as I have been seeing far too many of those terrible pastel or brightly coloured plastic ‘play houses’ both in back yards and in sales catalogues from (cheapish) department stores.
What’s the point in producing a lollipop-looking dolls-house thing that’s just big enough to fit a small child? A plastic set-up that’s destined to fade and fall apart shortly after the child has become terminally bored with attempts to make it into something exciting – or even satisfying.
Whatever happened to the idea of a family collecting building scraps of timber and constructing a real ‘cubby house’ – or even a tree house, as both an interesting activity and a personalised play space for the kids and their friends?
Is it too much like hard work to build something?
Would such a construction spoil the neat look of the perfect home?
Is it the dangerous possibility of a child getting a splinter in his or her finger?
Is it not safe for a child to learn to use a hammer and nails?
Is it the even worse fear of a child falling from a home-made play house and actually hurting themselves?
I fondly recall the cubby of my childhood, the dirt floor of which my sisters and I constantly swept clean with an old broom. The cubby that had a (glass-free) window that served as everything from porthole to shop counter.
I recall the cubby my husband built for our small children (with their help and advice!). It was in a corner of the yard, therefore negating the necessity of constructing two of its four walls, as they were provided by the paling fence.
Our young daughter often invited neighbourhood children into “her house” and even enlisted me as an occasional drinks’ waiter to bring out plastic mugs of cordial and sometimes a plate of plain biscuits.
That cubby house even had a (low) second storey, with a makeshift ‘ladder’ of wooden steps nailed to the nearby gum tree.
Certainly, there were a few falls and knocks, but not one child broke a bone and I cannot remember blood being spilled. But fun they had in spades.
There doesn’t seem to be much fun associated with the plastic ‘already-prepared’ constructions I see lately.
But I may be wrong.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.