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The Case For Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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.

Linn is a ventriloquist, among other things (she appeared on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood). "The Case for Make Believe" features her work as a play therapist. In detailed stories, she illustrates how she uses puppets to talk to hospitalized children. As the children reveal their problems through play, she is able to guide them to work through these problems while still playing. Linn uses these stories to help us understand the "intricacy and depth of children's psychological relationship to the play they create and as an argument for ensuring that we provide children with opportunities for make believe."

The book concludes with lots of suggestions for parents and other caregivers to help them incorporate creative play into every day.

"The Case for Make Believe" (as well as Linn's 2004 book, "Consuming Kids") is a well-written, well-documented, accessible, and convincing argument for changing the way we raise our children -- from what commercial culture expects us to do to what is truly best. It is a must-read for parents and caregivers who feel like we are too caught up in commericalized play and want to do something about it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2008
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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. However, I'm glad I quickly got over myself and persevered because as I moved through the valuable research, case studies and information, I happily discerned ways in which my children have not entirely fallen prey to The Man and just as unhappily discerned ways in which they have. It all comes down to balance, right? Or what D.W. Winnicott called "good enough" parenting. Just as the author, I immediately fell in love with this brilliant man. As many of my long time readers know, I've been singing the praises of "good enough" for years.

So yeah, my kids watch TV, listen to music, spend hours on the computer and play with branded and character toys. They also spend hours immersed in imaginative play with various toys whose identities are not attached to a character, TV show or movie. These toys become, like them, just people. Parents, teachers, doctors, Mommies, Daddies and children. Through them they express themselves and in doing so, their view of the world around them. My kids also spend countless hours outside swimming, digging in the garden, swinging under trees, collecting rocks and leaves. We play together, dine together, bake together, read together, create art together, take pictures together and TALK. (We talk a lot.) Balance? Perhaps. It seems more like a luxury nowadays and it's one I'm glad we can afford our children. We owe them at least that much. After reading this book, I think I'd like to tip the scales a bit more into unstructured play's favor. I, personally, would like my "good enough" to be that much better. As parents and citizens of this crazy, sometimes upside down world, I think we'd all be good to do it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is well written and thought provoking. However, a lot of it is devoted to the author's experience with play therapy and therefore most of it doesn't really help parents figure out how to support play with their own, mentally healthy kids. I also noticed that there were quite a few paragraphs lifted directly from her previous work, so if you've read Consuming Kids, you already have a good chunk of this book read. In my opinion, it was the parts that came from Consuming Kids that were the most insightful and helpful, and not the new material offered in this book. It's still worth a read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A cultural observer from our past would find the thesis of this book as a strange commentary on our age. "Advocating for creative play? Since when do we need lobbyists for make believe?"

Since now. After all, we live in a time when playing "dress up" means putting on a licensed Disney Corporation costume.

As Susan convincingly points out, not only is creative play not encouraged in the media, it actually threatens corporate profits. After all, what kid would need a Playstation if he or she is putting on a puppet show for the neighborhood?

THE CASE FOR MAKE-BELIEVE is not simply a diatribe protesting the way things are. Linn is a child psychologist at Harvard, and she reinforces her arguments with specific (and often heart-warming) case studies of kids, tweens, and teens. I really think this book (and Linn's work with the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood) should be required reading for parents.

Also recommended: Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children from the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an educator with 12+ years in middle and high school, I would say this book points out a major problem with today's education. While the author dwells on puppets as the medium for expressing her ideas, the reader can still garner the issue and what needs to be done to resolve it.
Students are not truly learning. Instruction produces a superficial knowledge and no ability to reason. This is due to a great extent by students entering the system with out having developed the ability to think independently and to reason. Most teachers are not equipped to handle this and end up perpetuating and, to some extent, exacerbating the problem. Parents must become more aware that today's toys, especially the highly touted electronics based toys, do not enable independent thinking and reasoning. They leave the student with the idea that they can learn with no mental effort.
I recommend all parents and teachers read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Linn makes a compelling case for the importance of imaginative play in the lives of children, and beyond. She clearly demonstrates the ways in which supporting children's imaginative play benefits society as a whole. Despite the tremendous importance of play, at both the individual and communal level, American society often not only fails to support imaginative play, but actively seeks to undermine it for the sake of corporate profit.

Dr. Linn is a co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University Medical. She has also worked extensively with children in the capacity of a play therapist. Dr. Linn is clearly an expert in her field and does a wonderful job of laying out the reasons why play is an "essential building block for a meaningful life" (page 10). Yet despite its vital importance to child development, imaginative play is eroding in our present day society, as children spend significantly less time engaging in creative play then they have in past years. For Linn, the answer lies in our profit driven corporate culture, which undermines the importance of creative play in favor of more profitable character based and directive styles of play.

Linn's book however, is one of hope and encouragement. She provides us (the overstressed parent) with suggestions for how to parent with intention and nurture creativity. She provides her reader with bulleted lists, tips and suggestions to help spark creative play. For Linn, the solution seems to be a more intentional type of parent, we "have to know who we are and what we value" (page 199).

What I enjoyed most about Linn's writing was that she did ot write a book strictly for academics and professionals, rather this book is for us, the parents. Rather than blaming, or criticizing parents for the decline of creative play amongst our children, Linn puts the blame on corporate profiteers. She empowers parents and educators to look within and trust themselves for the answers. Linn's book is engaging and thought provoking. It should be required reading for any parent who wants to parent with intention, as a tool to navigate through an overwhelming, dis-empowering, corporate culture. Perhaps the greatest motivation for nurturing creative play in our children is that it allows them to differentiate between their own internal motivation and the external stimulus of media messages. By fostering creative play, we are equipping our children with the tools that they themselves will need to maneuver the commercialized world in which they are
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In her warm-hearted and compelling style, Susan Linn makes a strong case for creative play. The Case for Make-Believe is easy to read and offers many practical suggestions that will help you provide a positive, fun space for your child.

The book makes the case that creative play is crucial because it helps children sharpen their minds and develop their imaginations, learn social skills and the ability to focus, and discover the joys of physical activity (remember the hours of playing with Legos, or a cardboard box, or hide and seek?). Our kids are at risk of losing this ability. This book helps us as parents remember the kind of play that is almost forgotten in today's video-game-driven culture. I highly recommend this book! It inspired my wife and me and has helped make a difference in our daughters' lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is thought provoking and truly wonderful. I cannot put it down! Even if you truly understand the value of play and think you know all there is to know, there is so much more to learn from this book. Every idea is presented well and explained in detail.

Although this is not a how-to book, there are many ideas weaved into the text on how you can support your child's play.

This is a must read for any and every parent, grandparent, relative, educator, and/or childcare worker.
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on October 21, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this book with some idea of the arguments in it, but it went beyond my expectations. The author makes a great case for the necessity of creative play not only for making children healthier and happier, but also for making them into responsible citizens - and not only screen-addicted consumers.
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