You might think kids today have it good – endless amounts of information at their fingertips, devices to occupy their time, emojis so they can talk in code to their friends and almost no one has to walk to school anymore.
But you know what I think? Being a kid today is hard. Think about it. Most kids and teenagers have boatloads of homework, but before they can tackle that work, they have to take a music lesson and go to soccer practice. Some kids even have scheduled play dates. But what about just letting loose and having time for free play? That, my friends, is why being a kid today is hard. There is too little time to relax and be carefree – and really important aspects of development happen when adults back off and let kids explore through unstructured play.
Honestly, every time I speak to an adult about early child development and developing all sorts of skills, I’m left thoroughly confused. Folks want their kids to be quick learners but don’t want them to spend time doing stuff (read: playing) that might actually benefit them. The general thinking is that play and learning are two separate things, which, in my mind, is nothing short of crazy. Or, as I believe the kids are saying, cray cray.
For me, the issue of play is serious and this conversation with Erika Christakis struck a chord.
Her new book, The Importance of Being Little, is a plea for adults – educators and parents alike – to forgo the mind numbing flashcards, old school worksheets and teaching Mandarin to preschoolers in favor of good old-fashioned play (um, when did play become old-fashioned and can we please change this?).
Christakis writes, “the distinction between early education and official school seems to be disappearing.”
Why can’t more people get on this page and forget the widely accepted norms? I often wonder why we’re complicating things so much when the answer’s really quite simple. Let your kids play!
What kids really need right now is for adults to start acting. We need to stop forcing them into so called “meaningful” activities when all they really need to (and want to) do is to play in the mud or roll in the grass. Want to explain the theory of gravity? Don’t just have them read about it in a musty textbook. Go to the playground and have them drop several objects from different heights of playground structures. Above all, make sure you work towards creating relevant and rich play experiences that foster a sense of security and emotional well-being among your kids.
Stop looking at play as an option; make play a priority!