Evolution of play: unsupervised bat and ball to today's screens
Kids used to use the bat and ball unsupervised and free; today play is all about screens or organized sport, hovered over by parents.
Photo: Tony Avelar/TCSM Illustration: John Kehe/Staff
• Outdoor play without adult supervision was common in both urban and rural US settings.
• Different ages played together.
• Bicycles and balls were the main outdoor toys, and board games were the most common inside.
• Much of play revolved around traditional games such as baseball, modified to fit space and materials.
• Use of toys increased, and many were 'branded' – connected to TV characters – Barbies, Power Rangers, My Little Ponies, etc.
• Outdoor play was likely to be adult-supervised or part of an 'organized activity.'
• TV viewing was increasingly a part of free time.
• Athletics become more formal and age-based – such as soccer camp for 7-year-olds rather than neighborhood pickup soccer in a vacant lot.
• Toys are the center of play; most are connected to media characters and are somehow electronic.
• Most free time is screen time spent in front of the TV, computer, etc.
• Unsupervised outdoor time is almost nonexistent. Physical activity of any kind has decreased.
• Multi-age, cross-gender play is disappearing, even among siblings.