In "Rip Van Winkle," how is Rip van Winkle helpful to children?

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Rip Van Winkle is characterized as being essentially good-natured, but deeply lazy. Early on in the story, Irving is quite clear in depicting Winkle's popularity among children, and the reason for that popularity. He is described participating in their games (as well as teaching them skills associated with kite-flying and marbles), telling them stories, making toys for them. That being said, while he is kindly and well-meaning, we should not forget his character flaws, with his laziness and general lack of responsibility.

Consider the description of his own children, who have learned their father's habits well. They are described, quite explicitly in the text, as "ragged and wild," while his son is called an "urchin." Concerning Rip's laziness, Irving tells us that he "would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound." Rip might be kindly, but he is also irresponsible. This is a factor which should not be overlooked.

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Rip helps the children of the village by making them toys, teaching them games, and entertaining them with stories. In return, the children adore him:

Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighbourhood.

Therefore Rip  is much in demand with the children, and the dogs, too, respond positively to him. However, although popular with children and animals, he seems to have less time for adult activities such as attending to his work, arousing the ire of his wife.  It may be said that he gets on so well with the children because he has remained rather childlike himself.

Rip, then, is lazy, kindly, good-natured, lacking all ambition to get on the world. He may not be of much account in a practical sense but his amazing twenty-year sleep in the mountains have the effect of turning him into a local legend. 

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