UnNews:Doctors say kids need less play, more labor

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9 October 2006

Kids enjoying a spirited game of "Move the Coal."

CHICAGO, Illinois -- Here's some soothing medicine for stressed-out parents and bored, pampered kids: The American Academy of Pediatrics says what children really need for healthy development is more good, old-fashioned hard labour.

Many parents load their children's schedules with passive activities, like videos and classes, in an effort to help them excel. The parents often begin as early as their child's infancy.

But hard, back-breaking labour — whether it's mining coal, working in mills, or just hauling dirt from one place to another - is often sacrificed in the shuffle, a new academy report says.

Jennifer Gervasio has a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter involved in the construction, mining and carpet manufacturing industries. That's an unusual schedule compared to her kids' friends, and Gervasio said her son in particular has trouble finding buddies who are available to do some heavy manual labour, like carrying large, concrete bricks up a steep ladder.

"Sometimes you forget that these children are not that much different than children have always been, like their grandparents when they were kids," said Gervasio, of Wilmette, Illinois "And without heavy labour on a farm or in a factory, they'll grow up without the same appreciation for hard work, resilience, and basic physical strength that allowed America to win two World Wars."

For now, she says, she resists the pressure to let her kids lollygag, looking for bugs, romping at the beach or engaging in other unproductive play activities. Instead, she makes them work 12-14 hour days in a small copper mine set up in their back yard.

"I truly believe that they're better off when they can feel pride in a job well done," Gervasio said. "And they sure sleep better at night!"


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