February 21, 2012 Kerala Taylor

How much do parents need to play with their kids?

Most mothers were sitting on benches around the perimeter watching their kids on trampolines, except for this one mom who had pulled a chair up close and was shouting, “Whee!” each time her child jumped. I knew she was American.

Pamela Druckerman, author of the new book Bringing Up Bébé describes this scene on a Paris playground in a recent interview with Macleans. Amongst the many differences she notes between American and French parenting styles is the "belief in America that we must always stimulate our kids." In France, by contrast, "children are given freedom to play by themselves, and to cope with frustration and boredom."

Druckerman goes on to say:

... when American parents come to my house, they’re constantly engaged with their children resolving spats, or getting down on the floor and playing Lego. We never finish a conversation, certainly not a cup of coffee. When French families come over, the kids go off and play by themselves and we adults have coffee.

We've written before on this blog about the benefits of boredom and the importance of children engaging in free, unstructured play, without parental hovering. But is it a "bad" thing for parents to build Lego houses with their kids?

Of course not. Perhaps the more relevant question is, should you as a parent feel obligated to build Lego houses? Would you rather be socializing with friends or catching up on household chores? Could American parents make things a little easier on themselves if they loosened the reigns and allowed themselves more "me" time?

To the last question, Druckerman would respond with an emphatic yes. How would you respond?

parent perspective, unstructured play, helicopter parents, free range kids, france, free play