We have all heard the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but how much truth is there is this old adage? I often feel that in today’s society the rush to grow up and DO something or BE something or GET AHEAD is being felt at a younger and younger age. Our children seem to have schedules so completely jam packed that they must pencil in a very structured and observed ‘play date’.
No longer are kids allowed to be, well kids. What on earth is this headlong rush into growing up doing to this generation of children? Academic success is a noble and important goal for a parent to have for their child and for a child to have for himself. However, that goal should not be at the expense of allowing that child to learn through play, creativity and…well…boredom. I feel as though important life skills are being tossed aside in the obsessive quest for the gold star on the next test. While it is fantastic to get an ‘A’, it is also fantastic to be able to share, socialize, occupy themselves when alone, and handle their own emotions. Kids require ‘free play’. They need to run, jump, fall, build, create, argue, negotiate, win, lose, and basically figure out life in the safe microcosm of a playground or back yard. They learn how to solve problems and discover their own interests when allowed to play freely and with natural curiosity and excitement.
More and more schools are finding behavioral problems, stress, and anxiety among even the youngest of children. They are trying desperately to fix a problem that some unstructured exercise and playtime could have drastically improved. Even though research shows that preschool age children learn and develop best through play experiences, more and more schools are shifting toward an academic based program. Common Core standards have increased the pressure on schools, teachers and students to get rid of anything that is not furthering that agenda. Many children are not developmentally ready for reading in pre K and kindergarten, yet that is now required. There are more than 90 standards a kindergartener is expected to meet before moving into first grade. “Desk time” dominates the school days in many places across the nation. This flies in the face of research on how very young children learn. Active, play based, hands on, experiential learning should predominate the youngest students day. Everyone is worried about their child being an early reader…getting that jump start. However, being able to read well requires strength in a child’s oral language skills. Social interaction and free play foster strong language skills, broadening their vocabulary and understanding of grammar. Field trips, play, hands on projects all contribute to the life experiences that a child draws on for understanding the world. Using their whole body to play helps them to understand how their body works and how their body interacts with the world around them.
I am all for academic excellence. I want my children(and all children) to succeed. I also want to be able to have an intelligent conversation on a variety of topics with my child. I want them to have experiences that are different than mine. I want them to develop opinions and insights and then share them with me and with the world. I want them to be able to function in society. To contribute. To handle what life throws at them.
I firmly believe that balancing their academic learning with allowing them to play, pretend, and explore and BE the child that they were, has helped them to be the adults they are today.