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The Case For Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World Hardcover – April 1, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A ventriloquist and psychologist, Linn (Consuming Kids) claims that the act of make-believe is disappearing. In her impassioned plea for its survival, Linn reveals that play has many benefits, including helping kids develop problem-solving, critical thinking and social skills. Play also enables children to explore their inner feelings, cope with challenges and promotes emotional healing. Linn reveals how she uses puppets to encourage deeply troubled kids to explore their feelings, pointing out that imaginative play helps all children cope with such issues as separation, anger and fear. Tragically, Linn claims, play is on a downswing, replaced by TV time and highly marketed media-linked toys and electronic media that discourage real creativity. In fact, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to prohibit screen time until the age of two, a study Linn cites reveals that 40% of infants under three months are regular screen viewers. The director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Linn claims that the demise of play is a public health problem requiring an urgent campaign. She concludes with ways parents can incorporate creative play, while acknowledging the challenge of swimming against the powerful media tide. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Puppeteer and therapist Linn draws on years of work at Boston Children’s Hospital to make a thoughtful case for creative play. She distinguishes between children who are familiar with concepts of imagination and make-believe versus those who know only how to play with manufactured toys linked to media campaigns or within the constructs of rule-driven environments. You can dress Barbie up, but what can she do? And while Legos once ruled the world of imagined play, now carefully constructed kits hem children in by guiding them to replicate someone else’s design rather than creating their own. None of this will be news to most parents, but Linn seeks to discover what it means for children to no longer spend time pretending to be someone or somewhere else. Her research is comprehensive, her firsthand knowledge is impressive, and her examples are damning in their conclusions. Echoing thoughts raised by Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods (2005), Linn brings invaluable expertise to this well-organized and straightforward exploration of a neglected subject. --Colleen Mondor

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565849701
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565849709
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,954,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lisa Ray on May 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In "The Case for Make Believe," Susan Linn does just as she promises: makes a case for childhood play by helping us to understand why it so important for childhood development and making us realize how far away from play we've gone:

"Lovable media characters, cutting-edge technology, brightly colored packaging, and well-funded, psychologically savvy marketing strategies combine in coordinated campaigns to capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of children - teaching them to value that which can be bought over their own make believe creations."

As a parent, I know she is right - most of us don't have degrees in child development nor do we spend hours poring over literature and research that helps us understand what really is best for our kids. Unfortunately, much of the information we get comes from companies that have developed products to "help parents."

So, for example, in our confusion over screen time for babies, most of us think that a half-hour here or there, while we're cooking dinner or taking a shower, won't hurt anything. Certainly that's what baby-video marketers will tell us. But what about a child's developmental step of learning to self-sooth? Linn states that babies can't master self-soothing if there is always some distraction there to pacify them.

One of the problems with childhood play today, argues Linn, is that it is scripted: children learn the scripts given to them through cartoons, videos, games, and characters and are unable to imagine stories outside those scenarios. For some children, this may take the form of repetitive, meaningless violence and fighting; for others, it may be playing princess but only using Disney-provided princess names and scenarios.
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Format: Hardcover
As a parent, it can become so exhausting to read book after book about what is destroying our kids' lives, especially when so many of the issues seem intractable. I've finished book after book only to feel disheartened and determined to raise my children on a deserted island or hide them in a box under the bed forever!

This book is different. It is distrurbing, as Linn connects dots we might rather leave unconnected about the impact of commercialized play on our children, but in the end Linn reminds us how easy it is to bring the good back in to the lives of our children. What's more, the answers are free, easy, and fun. There is no list of must-have products or specific program to be followed -- instead, she reminds us how special play is and how the very best play comes from the most simple tools. Old cardboard boxes, battery free toys, wonderful outdoor spaces, peace and quiet. In fact, the book doesn't ask us to do more, it asks us to do less. How refreshing.

The book includes inspiring and compelling stories of children the authored worked with as a play therapist, using puppets to let the children create their own realities and to express feelings often hard to express in "real life."

I am a little afraid of make believe myself (what do I say? what should I do?), but felt inspired enough to pick up an old puppet and use it. My five year old needed almost no prodding - I didn't need to know what to do, because she knew what to do. And in no time, it came back to me too -- how to play. Now I can't seem to get enough -- we play hospital, restaurant, animal games. Whatever emerges. It's made me feel more connected to my daughter (this feels different from playing "go fish") and given me a sense of pride to know that I'm doing well by her as I work to carve out space for her imagination.
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Format: Hardcover
I haven't been one for parenting books in a very long time. However, I interviewed Susan Linn a few years ago for an article on the dangers of consumerism and marketing to children and her commitment to the cause was and continues to be admirable. When she emailed me telling me about her new book, The Case For Make Believe, I jumped at the chance to review it. What she has to say is important to me on many levels but first and foremost as a parent. Unfortunately, this book is most likely to go unnoticed by those who need to read it the most. There is an epidemic of apathy in this country and let's face it, some of our fellow parents can't afford the luxury of critical thought. They are doing their best to survive in a volatile economic climate. Who has time to play much less read about the importance of play when you are constantly worried about how you're going to keep your children fed, clothed and sheltered? That's where Susan's brilliant ideas on social change come into, pardon the pun, play. There has got to be a way that we can provide at-risk children the stability and security to flourish creatively.

As for the rest of us? We'd do good to educate ourselves on the importance of play in our children's lives. I think we grossly underestimate it and I think it's high time we take the blinders off. Our children are being systematically deprived of a wholesome, creative, unbranded childhood. I'm as guilty as the next gal, I assure you. My kids watch TV. They wear the character t-shirts. Own the toys, DVD's and CD's. They play the video games (so do I, helloooo Wii!). Trust me when I say that a lot of the information in this book was a bit of an affront to me.
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