Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Stop the Madness and Let Kids Be Kids

I am aghast this morning to learn that a Toronto school has banned kids from playing tag. Tag. You know, that game where kids run around and squeal and try to catch each other and make them "it" by touching them? That game that gives them great joy and lots of giggles and physical activity. That game that kids have been playing probably since the beginning of time. Tag.

St. Luke's Catholic School banned tag last month. Because, according to a spokesperson for the school board, John W. Yan, some kids have been injured playing the game. There have been scrapes and bruises!!!!! Even sprains, which of course aren't fun. But they happen. I sprain my ankle on fairly regular basis, just walking. The first time I did it was playing basketball in gym class (maybe we should ban gym as well?) One child did suffer a fractured leg, which is horrible. But again, breaks happen and are a part of life (not just childhood). My brother fractured his leg sledding as a child. I had lots of friends who broke limbs playing organised sports. Better ban those too, I guess.

If you are running, you can fall hard and you can hurt yourself. And guess what else? You will learn from that experience. You will hopefully be more careful next time. Make better decisions. You tackled a friend while playing tag and they broke their leg? Wow. Think of the guilt feelings. Think of the learning that happens there and the growth in compassion. Again, I don't know under what circumstances the mentioned limb was fractured, but the philosophy applies.

None of us want to see kids hurt. That's a given. But this knee-jerk reaction to cocoon them and remove all possibility of danger is frightening. We are not doing our kids any favours by bubble-wrapping them and taking away risk. Kids need to take risks in order to learn. Kids need to be active in order to stay healthy. Back in ancient times when I was a kid, we ran free. We learned how to assess risk. We learned how to deal with conflict. We may have learned on the proverbial battlefield, but we learned and grew and developed into functioning, healthy, strong adults.

What are we teaching today's kids with lessons like the one at St. Luke's?

For the record, I don't know what version of tag these particular kids were playing. Maybe it was full-contact, rugby tackling tag. That wouldn't be smart and should likely be discouraged. But does that mean all games of tag should be banned? No way. Teach good decisions. If the kids have created a dangerous game, talk to them about it and show them the painful results. Ban that specific activity and put consequences in place for those who don't follow the new rules. But don't stop the kids from running around the playground and having healthy, active fun with their friends.

It's time for a reality check.

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