Are Corporations Abducting Your Child's Imagination? (page 2)

Are Corporations Abducting Your Child

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Updated on May 21, 2014

But rather than lay blame, Linn recognizes the challenges that parents face. She says it's never been harder to be a parent-- what with trying to provide your child with a healthy environment in which to grow while the marketing companies find ever-more clever ways to make your child want their product. “This is the first generation of parents that have to struggle with commercialized culture,” she says. The good news? You don't have to move to the Alaskan wilderness in order to preserve the world of make believe for your child. Instead, here are some of Linn's suggestions from her book, The Case for Make Believe:

  • Surround your child with open-ended toys that need creativity to be fully imagined. Be wary of toys sold in kits or series, those that have a media hook, or those that offer only one way to build it or play with it. “A good toy is 90 percent child and 10 percent toy,” Linn says.
  • It's tempting to use the television to keep your children entertained while you cook dinner, but it's worth brainstorming other ways. How about creating a bottom drawer in your kitchen filled with safe kitchen equipment to explore and play with? Or putting out a tray with a little soapy water and a few plastic cups?
  • Give your child a chance to play on his own. If he's old enough to be responsible and your neighborhood is safe, encourage him to play outdoors and provide opportunities for him to invent his own games away from adult intervention. For children too young to be unsupervised, giant cardboard boxes or a tent made out of a sheet strung across two chairs can give them the delightfully exciting illusion of independence.
  • It's all about access. It's not realistic to think that your child won't see mainstream media until she gets to college, but the longer you can hold off, the better.
  • If you allow children regular access to screen media, set limits on time and institute the tradition of some time—even if it's one evening a week—that's screen free. Use this time to play games, read aloud, be silly, cook, do craft projects, enjoy nature, or anything else that you all enjoy that facilitates play and creativity.
  • If you enjoy films and want to share that experience with your children, try renting old movies that you can enjoy together. If the movie your child wants to see is based on a book, be sure he reads the book first. Give him the opportunity to envision his own Aslan before seeing the Chronicles of Narnia.
  • When allowing your child to watch television or see a movie, be wary of brands and set limits around the marketing piece. For example, you could tell your child, “We're going to go to the movie, but we're not going to buy any toys.”
  • If your child is immersed in a TV show or film, let her play about it, but play with her in an effort to lift her out of the script and expand the way she plays about the characters. “We can play with them, and when we do that we shift things,” Linn says. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to make something together. “Let's cook dinner for Spiderman.” “Let's make a house for Batman out of clay.”
  • Know what kind of marketing is going on at your child's school, and don't be afraid to speak up if you see offensive commercialism going on. It's best to get some facts about the issue to bolster your argument, rather than just working off emotion. And, there's power in numbers: try to find parents to stand with you. 

The bottom line for Linn is that play is a gift that's being squandered. “We are born with the capacity to transform reality, and today we are raising kids who don't have that opportunity,” Linn says.

Not only does this lost opportunity have implications for each individual child, but it also has implications when it comes to the United States competing in a global economy. Many today argue that kids will need to be tech-savvy in the 21st century. Linn argues that kids will also need to be able to tell the difference between authenticity and hype. “Without it they'll be at the mercy of the marketing industry.”  

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