Do other cultures play with their children?

I heard a claim that the American leisure class is the only culture in the world that plays with their children. Not that people of other cultures don’t love their children, just that the adults don’t join in children’s games and actually play along. They watch and supervise, encourage and praise … but don’t participate. That’s certainly true of many cultures I’ve visited, but is it universal?

My extended family includes French and Swedish relatives who play with their kids, so I think it’s very very safe to dismiss that theory out of hand.

But I’m more curious what cultures you’ve visited which you say don’t play with their children.

I too would like to know the answer to this. I’ve seen a fair few cultures in my travels and in all of them the adults at least occasionally play along with the children.

I think perhaps there is a fair bit of equivocation at play here.

In other cultures adults don’t join in children’s games, that’s because they simply can’t compete fairly. But that is also true of the US. Adults don’t join in Little League games for example. However in other cultures adults and children do frequently play the same games at the same time, whether that be messing about swimming or playing checkers. The difference is that these aren’t, by defintion, children’s games. They are family games. And once again the US is no different in ths regard. Adults and children might join in backyard baseball games or monopoly games but bydefntion these are not chidlren’s games.

I have a hard time imagining a society where adults and children never play together. All else aside how do chidlren learn the rules to complex games like chess or football if they are never allowed to play with adults?

I’ve seen plenty of Indonesian adults engage children in play. In fact, I know an Indonesian nursery rhyme that an adult taught my son, then me.

I will say that in Indonesia, many Indonesian friends commented that I engaged my son in real conversation - not babytalk - far more than Indonesians would. (He was an early talker and has a striking vocabulary; I assume this was a contributing factor.)

However, for all I know that was just my unusual behavior and I’d have been told the same thing no matter what culture I was living in.

Well if you want to teach your children absolute jingoism, you have to start early, and work very hard.


Actually in my observation I am yet to see a culture that as consistently engages in children’s games for their own sake as “the American leisure class”, regardless if children are present or not, and children are generally welcome to participate. My sample of adults would generally lean towards the younger side, but a lot of them have children themselves.

The general attitude of a person raised outside of the US when seeing that I have crayons in paper on the back seat of my car is “Oh I didn’t know you had kids!” when they’re informed I don’t the reaction is " :dubious: Then why do you have crayons?".

The general attitude of a person raised in the US is “Awesome! Crayons! Can I draw?”

(Edit: Whoa, what happened there?)

No. Not true at all. I see Japanese parents playing with their kids. Not just supervising or whatever, but playing along.

What’s the “American leisure class”? Are other American classes not supposed to play with their kids, now? I don’t know if any of the Americans I know belong to that class, but I’ve played with their kids and seen them play with their kids.

My parents played with us, we now play with The Nephew… kids’ games, games the kids invent, adult games the kids are old enough for, whatever. Long car trips would have been eternal without “veo veo” (I think in English it’s “I spy”).

groman, the last time that I was moving, when my boxes of crayons and bottles of ink came up, Mom said “oh I really don’t know why you keep those; well, at least The Nephew will be able to use them.” We replied “oh sure, Mom, because as we all know, Nava has never liked drawing, Middlebro can’t stand submarines, and Lilbro hates soccer.” I wanted to study Art, Middlebro filled several notebooks with schematics of subs and Lilbro can recite Liga results for the last 20 years :stuck_out_tongue: - so tell me, when did you meet my mom?

Here’s an article that makes the claim that Americans play more with their children than other cultures:

Of course they do. During the Vietnam War it was argued that killing Vietnamese was not a big deal because they didn’t care about family like good christian Americans do. Then cut to hundreds of photos of videos of the Vietnamese (surprise) inconsoloable at the deaths of loved ones.

It does say this:

“American-style parent-child play is a distinct feature of **wealthy developed countries ** – a recent byproduct of the pressure to get kids ready for the information-age economy, Lancy argues in a recent article in American Anthropologist, the field’s flagship journal in the United States.”

… and throughout the article compares American child-rearing to that of tribal and non-western societies, so I don’t think they are highlighting a big difference between US and Western European practices.

Yes, Indian people also play with their kids. You can add one more culture to your list of “Yes’s”.

However, as groman says, playing kids’ games without kids? That may be a predominantly American thing only.

Really? I’ve never left U.S. soil in my life, but my reaction would be that of the foreigner you describe. I’m sure some adults who don’t have children must play with crayons, but I’ve never met one.

Would you have the same reaction to having a tub of legos in the living room? What about things that traditionally bridged the childhood hobby to adult obsession lines like slotcar racing or amassing large quantities of silly putty?

Um… yeah?

Now, I have met adults who were still into children’s cartoons like the Transformers, but I tend to find them very off-putting. Maybe I just give off a get-away-from-me-manchild vibe that people pick up on before breaking out their silly putty, so I don’t know. Perhaps my experiences are atypical.

That’s OK. More toys for me.

Seriously, I don’t get why we’re supposed to give up toys just because we’re adults now! And I quite frankly refuse to. I can be mature as need be, but at home I’m playing video games and having fun. :slight_smile:

Hey, I never said anything about video games. :slight_smile:

I only play occasionally (mostly football games and GTA), but I will note that the majority of video game players are adults nowadays. Video games (well, some of them) have gotten a lot more grown-up since the NES days.

Obligatory link to my favorite xkcd* strip ever.

groman, I have to say that most people do find my box of Crayolas odd, or assume it’s for the kids AND they then get excited when I give them “permission” to play with them by admitting they’re for me. So it goes:
“Why do you have crayons here - shouldn’t they be in your daughter’s room?”
“No, they’re not hers.”
:dubious: “Then why do you have them?”
“These are mine. She’s two, she gets the broken ones, these are off limits.”
“Oh…cool! Can I try them out?”

Even better, I like to bring a few boxes to casual parties and just leave them on the table and watch how people react. Stole the idea from Robert Fulgham, but darn if he isn’t right - people are a bit scared of them at first, and then sidle up slowly, pick up the box, close their eyes and sniff. First thing, gotta get a whiff of the Crayola smell. Warning: do not try this with crappy generic crayons. Must be Crayola.

the webcomic, not the asshat*

**I really resent that I have to add that disclaimer into my posts now. :frowning:

That’s okay. Some of us think both stink. :smiley: