According to a study, by the American Academy of Pediatrics,
“Parents receive messages from a variety of sources stating that good parents actively build every skill and aptitude their child might need from the earliest ages. They are deluged in parenting magazines and in the media with a wide range of enrichment tools and activities that tout their ability to produce super-achieving children. They read about parents who go to extreme efforts, at great personal sacrifice, to make sure their children participate in a variety of athletic and artistic opportunities. They hear other parents in the neighborhood talk about their overburdened schedules and recognize it is the culture and even expectation of parents.”
In other words, parents are being told that more is more is more.
And from my totally anecdotal wanderings on the internet and ramblings with friends I’ve seen this to be true even at the toddler and preschool ages. Parents wondering if their two-year-olds are missing out because they aren’t enrolled in enough activities. Flashcards being promoted for babies. Great concern by everyone when a child develops slightly slower than the kid next door (even though the child is still within a “normal” developmental range).
And you know what’s getting left behind in this pursuit of academic excellence prior to even kindergarten?
Play. Specifically, unstructured child-led play.
Where kids use their imaginations. Where they dress up their dolls and feed them lunch. Where they run around outside and discover bugs.
And this is not good. Because play is how children (particularly young ones) learn. The above study states that play:
- Fosters creativity
- Promotes brain development
- Helps kids conquer fears
- Develops leadership skills
- Builds healthy bodies
And the list goes on and on. Yet it’s so easy to get caught up in the hype. To wonder if we’re doing enough.
Just last week during VBS my daughter was in the nursery. Some other kids just slightly older than her participated in the preschool group. And I wondered if she was missing out. If we were holding her back by leaving her in the nursery. But my husband led preschool games and said there is no way our daughter would have been able to follow the organized games. She’s not ready to follow instructions and play a formal game as of yet.
And that’s okay. Because she was busy doing what she does in the nursery. Smiling at the babies and asking to touch their toes. Asking someone to read her a book. Throwing around a ball. Talking constantly to anyone who will listen.
And she’s learning. A lot. Though I’ve never sat down with her with the intention of teaching her anything in particular, she picks stuff up.
Because when it comes to our kids, maybe less really is more.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between learning and play for children? Do you ever get caught up in the hype that more is more?