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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Compassion deficit disorder

‘‘He watched my face, read my signals,’’ she says. ‘‘If the ball hit me, he knew to be sad. We would experiment by throwing it harder and softer. If I picked up the ball and dropped it into the stool, we would laugh and laugh. It was a rich experience.’’


Jack was getting a crash course in human communication, with chapters on empathy and compassion. In a world where more and more toys have batteries, buttons, screens, or agendas, it's a lesson early childhood educators worry too many children are missing. Wheelock College professor Diane Levin has even coined a term for children without it: compassion deficit disorder.


Unfortunately, parents unwittingly abet the process with the toys they buy.


‘‘The ability to relate to others builds slowly over time through many, many little everyday experiences,’’ Carlsson-Paige says. ‘‘The more we give them toys that take them out of relationships instead of putting them into them, the more, little by little, they are missing out on the slow construction of social skills.’’

Ah, ah... my wife jumped in her seat. She was reading the Boston Globe this morning. The article in the Living/Arts section was titled "Kids don't get building blocks of learning from high-tech play". Written by Barbara F Meltz, it created such excitement for my wife. I haven't see her this excited reading the paper.


You may recall Dolores teaches kindergarten. She sees this all too often in some of her kids. While one may have three Memory games at home, others have not played it before.

Levin and others who study the relationship between toys, play, and development say toys with electronics bypass the process by which young children learn about cause and effect, including cause and effect of the human kind, such as body language and nonverbal clues. The more high-tech toys a child has and the younger he or she is when they're introduced, the bigger the potential problem. The first three toys on the TRUCE ‘‘Toys to Avoid’’ list, for instance, are a Baby Einstein video for 9-month-olds, and two electronic learning systems by Leap Frog and Jakks.

Cause and effect? Maybe something like the connection between the real power of a gunshot to a live person and what is witnessed in a video game?

It's open-ended toys — blocks, clay, puppetry, animal figures, sand, markers, chalk, paint — that preschool teacher Sarae Pacetta hopes parents choose this holiday season.

‘‘Parents think they aren't doing a good enough job if they can't provide toys that have buttons and make sounds. It's just not true,’’ says Pacetta, who teaches at the Lee Academy Pilot School in Dorchester. ‘‘I'd rather see a child playing with empty cereal boxes and tubes from toilet and paper towel rolls than with electronic toys.’’

Chalk and a clear driveway or sidewalk! Ah, those are great combinations. I recall coming home from time to time and being cautioned not to step here or there because of the special place I was intruding upon. I learned quickly to engage with what was happening with my daughters and their friends before going too far.

What you can do with a paper towel roll is open to as much as your imagination will allow. That is one of the keys. Imagination. Creative play. Exploring and making things up. Electronic toys will keep one busy but in a structured world all unto its own with little human interaction.

Read the full article here.

Save your child, or grandchild, or neighbors kid this holiday season.

Buy one of the many non-battery operated toys this year.

Encourage their open ended play. Help them avoid compassion deficit disorder.


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Comments on "Compassion deficit disorder"


Blogger Rosa Say said ... (5:01 PM) : 

Thoughtful posting Steve, thank you. I also remember parking our cars at the curb in honor of the wonderful chalk drawings my own kids had made, and how the times we couldn't eat dinner at the dining room table were because my then-young children had stripped all the comforters from their beds to turn it into their secret fortress. All they need is usually in our homes, and most of all, our children need the interaction they get in play with US.

Hau‘oli la hanau Steve, happy birthday. You give us a gift today continuing to share your day with us in this rich writing.


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