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Parents, step away from the toys?

null Anthropologist David Lancy is causing somewhat of a stir in the world of child psychology. In his recent article, published in American Anthropologist , Lancy claims that the often-promoted idea of parents participating in play time with their young kids might not be the only way to raise happy, well-rounded individuals. In fact, most cultures would roll their eyes at our habit of squatting on the floor next to our kids with plastic trains and Barbies. All kids play, regardless of culture, but in most communities parents don't enter the picture, Lancy asserts. According to the Boston Globe , his findings do more than reveal our differences to other cultures: they challenge the necessity of many widely used (and marketed) lessons in parenting. Many initiatives, like the Parent-Child Home Program in Massachusetts, teach low-income families parenting strategies like "play activities" that are said to promote literacy. Representatives of this traditional approach aren't convinced that Lancy's findings should encourage us to change our parenting methods. "I'm not clear what's bothering this guy," Yale psychologist Jerome Singer told the Boston Globe. "We are not talking about the parents playing all day long with the children. We're just saying that children need to play, and particular kinds of play -- imaginative play that has a storytelling element to it -- are very useful." "The fact that non-Western parents do not interact with their babies like Western parents doesn't mean they aren't interacting with them," said Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist. The conclusion? Don't strike those play sessions from your overscheduled calendars just yet. But it's useful to know that kids can benefit just as much from hanging out with you in the kitchen or accompanying you on a walk to the park.
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