No Harmony In Musical Chairs

Jenny Kanevsky
Written by Jenny Kanevsky

Remember those games of childhood like Musical Chairs and Duck Duck Goose? There are others, games of elimination, games of anxiety and racing and then being “out.” I remember a preschool Halloween party. One of the activities was Musical Chairs.

I know my son and immediately thought “uh oh.” He hates competition, and especially elimination activities that are aggressive, fast, and frankly pointless. Where is the fun? I don’t see it. Cupcakes. They’re fun. Mud pies. They’re fun. Being singled out and sent to the side of the room? Not so fun. When it was announced, he said “I don’t want to play, Mom.”

“You don’t have to bud, just move your chair to the side.”

Within seconds, ten other kids followed suit. They’d found an ally. My son wasn’t playing? What was this anarchy?

One-by-one came up to me and whispered, “I don’t want to play either, I don’t like this game.”

“That’s fine guys, you don’t have to play.”

Smart kids. They didn’t want to chase each other around the room and slowly, painfully eliminate their friends.

Who made up these games? Is this training for The Hunger Games? The Wolf of Wall Street? Why? They’re three. THREE. How is it fun to make another kid feel left out?

I get that these games have been around a long time. I can hear some grandfather saying “Oh, a little competition never hurt anyone, makes him tough. It’ll make him a man.” I don’t need him to be a man. He’s a kid. He likes sandboxes and cuddles and feeling loved. Is getting kicked out of a group activity a three year old’s idea of fun? I’m going with “no.” And, if it is, watch out for that kid later in life. Seriously, he’s your future nightmare.

Not many kids like those games; at least, I never did. Oh, the anxiety; the finger pointing. Can’t we all just get along?

Most adults don’t like to be left out either. Smart, smart kids.

 

Jenny Kanevsky blogs IN OTHER WORDS at www.jennykanevsky.wordpress.com. Her novel, Chosen Quarry is featured on her author website www.jennykanevsky.com.
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About the author

Jenny Kanevsky

Jenny Kanevsky

Jenny Kanevsky is the author of the mystery Chosen Quarry. She blogs at In Other Words about middle age, grey hair, and single motherhood. She is an editor at The Good Men Project and a contributor at Huffington Post. Her work has also been featured at MomBabble, Lipstick & Politics, Midlife Boulevard, Role Reboot, and SheKnows Experts.

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20 Comments

  • Honestly, I think this is a bit paranoid and over-protective. I’m a teacher, and I sometimes play games like this in my classroom. And I’ve never once had a kid tell me they don’t want to play. If they did I would let them sit out, but it’s never happened. I wouldn’t play musical chairs in preschool, but by a certain age they understand that if they’re out, they’ll get back in again in the next round.

    • Yes true, my older kid is fine with it but here the author says the kids were three. I homeschool so maybe I am out of the loop but isn’t three years preschool?

      I do have a kid that is a very sore looser. I avoided games like this for a long time and then realized if we bumped two out on the first round, they had each other – misery loves company, LOL.

    • Sometimes a child is afraid to tell a teacher how he or she feels, and the group think of conformity is very powerful in a school setting. I don’t think there is anything paranoid about this post, on the contrary, I think the anxiety the author speaks of address our possible creation of paranoia in young children and is right on point. I would never want my 3 year old having to deal with competition of any structured nature, induced by adults.

      • Thank you for making that additional point, Leslie. The issues of peer pressure/anxiety/conformity were certainly on my mind as I wrote this post. As I mentioned, when the preschool age children saw that my son was given permission to make a choice about participation (without reprimand), they followed suit. This was in a co-op preschool situation with parent participation. In a situation without a parent, the pressure to conform would be even greater, regardless of age.

        Full disclosure, this post has been rattling around in my brain for years. I showed it to my son, the subject, last night. He is now 12. He read it and smiled. He still feels this way about games like this. And, he appreciates that his parents allow him to be who he is. Some kids are OK with competition; his younger brother plays competitive sports and wants to be in professional sports. This kid, not OK with it. At all. He loves socializing with other kids and does so in other ways.

        I believe it’s extremely important that we look at how we encourage kids to socialize and play. Is competition and elimination really the best way to do that? What about more collaborative play? Particularly at a young age. These are things to think about, especially when so many kids show aggression, anxiety, bullying behaviors, etc.

  • “is this training for the Hunger Games?” Snort. I don’t remember feeling one way or another about musical chairs, but I remember breaking out in to a cold sweat over dodge ball.

  • To Cindy, the teacher, I think it’s great that you’d give your students the option to sit out. And, as you said, in agreement with the piece, the game is not appropriate for preschool age children. As children get older, these concepts are easier to understand; turn-taking becomes easier to manage. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  • Down with adult-sanctioned nastiness. I couldn’t agree with this post more. Perhaps I will ask this post to marry me I agree with it so much. I was a nanny for a long time and I am now the mother of a soon to be 3 year old. Frankly, I LOVE that she is not in any preschool yet because I think these antiquated notions of what is good for children too often affect the judgment of otherwise progressive schools. Why on Earth should children have anxiety induced in school? Give them some crayons and blocks and call it a day, for goodness sake!

  • I HATED musical chairs when I was a kid, because I just didn’t like that kind of ‘fear of losing out’ competition. I wasn’t competitive enough to win, and I didn’t want to feel like a loser. So I sat out. And 3? Seriously, there are more fun things to do than musical chairs. Like building blocks.

  • I had never thought about the game this way. Thanks for making me think! I do think some of these games and generally kid things (like choosing teams where someone is always last) are hard and can be harder on some. But I still have fond memories of this game, even when I didn’t win. I think it can go either way, but I wouldn’t throw out all these games because they inspire competition or eliminating friends.
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  • Musical chairs is great for teaching people how to steal someone else’s seat on the subway. I LOVE walking at a normal pace to the seat that clearly has my name on it and having some d-bag rush in front of me, bump me, and then take my seat. Why be relaxed and cordial on your commute when you can ruin someone’s day? So thank you, musical chairs, for keeping me on edge and letting me stand for 22 stops.
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