Book Review:

The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, by Susan Linn

I will admit something that I hate, hate to admit.

In the couple weeks before Christmas, we watched a lot of television at my house. Prior to this dark spot in our family’s history, we watched very little. I swore up and down my kids would not watch T.V. more than occasionally, and I would certainly never use it as a babysitter.

Fast-forward to early December 2011.

With my three year old fighting croup, my seven month old fighting his first ear infection, and me fighting a terrible cold, we pressed that little black “On Demand” button way too many times. Thomas and Friends, The Wonder Pets, Sesame Street, Little Bear, Elmo’s World…we hit them all. Multiple times.

Perhaps I need to dig out and re-read my copy of The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World, by Susan Linn. Dr. Linn, as the co-founder of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, makes a well-argued case against the media-dominated environment that surrounds our children. She defines and pinpoints exactly why we as parents should care that our toddlers recognize and request certain characters in stores. She explains, with her considerable knowledge and authority on the topic, how by making play simple once again we can help our children’s development cognitively and emotionally.

Though this book does contain a fairly extensive account of Dr. Linn’s own experiences as a play therapist, it’s really worth a read as this information helps to show the importance of what play does. As a parent of two young children, I know first-hand how easy and tempting it is to turn the T.V. on from time to time as a distraction so I can cook dinner, etc. While I personally don’t think small amounts of T.V. here and there are harmful, I agree with Dr. Linn’s concerns regarding the harm of immersing children in a culture of movie and television characters, allowing corporate products that invite little to no creative thought to invade play spaces, and teaching our children that the solution is to buy more “stuff”. This book is worth a read and some careful thought!

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