Tag Archives: Overscheduled Kids

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How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let them Play

When German Frederick Froebel created kindergarten in the 1800s, little could he have envisioned what it would become. Those first kindergarten students, indeed the first children to experience early childhood education, learned through play, music, movement, paper-folding and games. Froebel recognized that early childhood was a a period of dramatic brain development during which children thrived when they learned holistically. His work influenced Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner (whose work led to Waldorf Schools), and the Reggio Emilia approach to education, all of which are popular and well regarded today.

Kindergarten, as recently as many of our own childhoods, was a laboratory of discovery and wonder, social skills and play. It was not viewed solely as preparation for grade school.

Fast-forward 150+ years since Froebel to arrive at a time in which not only is kindergarten regarded as preparation for grade school, but preschool is considered preparation for kindergarten. Online parent message boards are crammed with questions from anxious parents, asking, “Is my child ready for kindergarten?” Kindergarten readiness tests and commercial kits denote and teach multiple precise skills children should know before starting kindergarten, including the abilities to count from 1 to 10, identify colors, cut with scissors, create rhyming sounds, and skip.

Yes, skip. This piece of information includes the especially ridiculous coda that pre-school children around the U.S. are being taught to skip, in order to prepare them for kindergarten. Sadly, many children do not have enough outdoor play and free time to develop this skill on their own and are now taught it, not as a joyous life skill, but as part of the readiness curriculum.

But what if “readiness curriculum” emphasizes the wrong things? Perhaps our anxieties about “kindergarten readiness” and our rush toward academics for our kids are fueled by our own desires and fears, rather than by education and early childhood theory. We are taught early that there is tremendous competition for college spots and for jobs. Because we’re often busy ourselves, we view time as something to be used efficiently, even and perhaps especially in regard to our children and their childhoods.

In addition, parents today are led to believe that we have to choose between academic preschools and play-based preschools. But what if the play-based schools actually fed children’s academic, social and physical needs and success?  According to studies, that’s exactly what they do.

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith of The Center for Early Childhood Education writes that “Play is necessary for success in school” and that play enhances language and literacy, counting and math, symbolic thought, cooperation, self-awareness and self-control. Longitudinal studies show that even the gains achieved by some academic preschools are largely lost by third or fourth grade.

If that weren’t enough, recent studies also show that today’s preschoolers spend only 2-3% of their time doing vigorous activity. In our rush toward what many of us think of as academic achievement and readiness, we’re actually robbing many young children of the ability to learn the way they do best — through play.

Alison Gopnik, psychology professor and author of The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, refers to “guided discovery”, the notion that small children learn best through exploration and interaction, wonder and play. Schools teach mastery, which is wonderful, writes Gopnick, but mastery should follow discovery. She uses an example from baseball:

Routinized learning is not an end in itself. A good coach may well make his players throw the ball to first base 50 times or swing again and again in the batting cage. That will help, but by itself it won’t make a strong player. The game itself — reacting to different pitches, strategizing about base running — requires thought, flexibility and inventiveness.

How do we encourage qualities like thought, flexibility and inventiveness in our young people, the very qualities that underlie later academic and other success? Let them play when they’re young, when their brains are elastic and they learn best through exploration. Encourage various social, physical and other experiences that enhance children’s natural senses of curiosity and wonder. Allow them to move their bodies more, especially in nature when possible, and not be unnecessarily (and unnaturally) sedentary. Studies show that even older elementary students need recess and play and that physical activity helps them perform better academically.

It seems that letting preschoolers be preschoolers is the least — and the most –  we can do for them.

Photos: Let the Children Play, Creative Child, Let Children Play, Academic Advancement

For more information see:

Resources about Play and Slowing
News about Play and Slowing

You might also be interested in:

Slow News: Let the Kids Play
Pre-school and Kindergarten Graduations: Too Much Too Fast?
Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy
Babies Learn By Playing
New Childrens Book Reminds Us to Play

 

‘Fed Up with Frenzy’ Blog Tour Coming to a Screen Near You

 

As many of you know, my book, Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, will be out August 1.

I am very eager for you to learn about all the fun ideas and projects I’ve collected to help your family slow down and reconnect. To do that, I’ve assembled an all-star team of bloggers to join the Fed Up with Frenzy Blog Tour to share their thoughts about the book and some of the ideas and projects inside.

 

Here is a partial list of bloggers and dates on the Fed Up with Frenzy Blog Tour. Please visit their sites for reviews, activities, tips and book giveaways! (And also, because they’re all wonderful sites with great information about kids, crafts, gardening, nature, free play, education, slowing down, creativity and family fun!)

August 1                                      Power of Slow     Review

August 2                                     Grass Stain Guru     Guest post

August 4                                       Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas Review

August 7                                     Red, White & Grew     Guest post

August 9                                     Slow Family Living     Review/Activity

August 15                                     Fun Orange County Parks     Review

August 17                                      Let Children Play     Guest post

August 22                                     Jen Spends     Review

August 24                                     Becentsable     Review

August 27                                     Real Moms Love to Eat     Recipe

August 28                                     A Place Like This     Review

September 5                              Rhythm of the Home     Guest post

September 5                               Mummy’s Product Reviews     Review

September 6                               Jump into a Book     Review

September 6                               Modern Day Moms     Review

September 7                               7 on a Shoestring     Review

September 8                             Dad of Divas     Review

September 10                            Go Explore Nature     Interview

September 12                           Active Kids Club     Podcast!

September 13                            Love, Life, Family and Then Some     Review

September 14                            Go Explore Nature     Activity

September 14                           Adventures of the Alpha Mom     Review

September 15                            What Mama Wants     Review

September 18                            Traveling Mel     Review/Activity

September 19                            Allison Abramson     Review

September 20                           Imagination Soup      Review

September 21                          Chi-Town Cheapskate     Review

September 21                          Frugal Mama     Review

September 24                          Go Gingham     Review

September 24                         Adventures of the Alpha Wife     Review

September 25                          Play Equals Peace     Interview

September 26                          A Little Yumminess     Review/Recipe

September 27                          Bright Copper Kettles     Review/Craft

September 28                          Parent Palace     Review

October 1                                   Noble Mother     Review

October 2                                   Frugal Mama   Guest post

October 3                                   A Little Bite of Life     Review

October 4-18                           The WELL Inkwell     Online Discussion

October 8                                  Love, Live, Grow     Review

October 12                                 Skinny Mom     Review

October 15-24                         Erin Goodman     10-day Family Recharge

October 17                                 Erin Goodman     Review

October 20                               I’m a Teacher, Get me Outside Here   Review

November 14                          Mama Scout     Review

November 15                          Frog Mom Blog     Review and Activity

November 27                          Salt and Nectar     Web chat

December 4                     Bliss Beyond Naptime  Audio, Frenzy-Free Holiday
Plus Video, Simplicity Parenting with Rhythm

December 7                      Polliwog on Safari     Review

January 3                          Non-Toxic Kids     Review

July 27                                Hill Babies     Review

Dates To Be Announced (this site will update):

Life as Mom

Nature Moms

Ask a Nanny

The Movement Academy Project

Connecting Family and Seoul

Would you like to join the blog tour? Please give me a shout. I’d be thrilled to have you join.

Blog tour badge by my talented husband, and the book’s illustrator, Lippy.

New Childrens Book Reminds us to Play

Ernestine Buckmeister, the heroine of a delightful new children’s book, written by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Suzanne Beaky, doesn’t have time for childhood. This is so “…because her busy, well-meaning parents had packed her after-school schedule.” Mondays are for clay sculpting, Tuesdays for water ballet, Wednesdays for knitting and Thursdays for tuba playing. The week is rounded out with yodeling, karate and yoga.

Sound familiar? Though slightly exaggerated, Ernestine’s schedule gently acts as a mirror of over-scheduled children whose anxious parents are afraid that childhood is limited and convinced that children are in need of efficient delivery of experiences and skills.

But something happens to Ernestine. She discovers the joy of unstructured play and friends to play with, and influences her parents (and nanny, in a nice touch) to seek a little balance in the process.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is completely charming. Its message is delivered in a gentle, funny way, with cute plays on words and illustrations that are cheerful, colorful and winning. The repetition and order of words and of Ernestine’s routine would appeal to young children. It’s quite easy to imagine this book becoming a favorite of children and parents as well as a wonderful, sly reminder of the importance of slowing down for childhood and for play.

You might also like:

Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Enjoy the Ancient Art of Cloud Watching
Babies Learn by Playing
How to Tame Fall Frenzy
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy

Back to School: How to Tame Fall Frenzy

The flood of school-related papers seems to come earlier each year – the “first day” packets, the emergency and permission forms, the sports and other schedules. The start of school seems earlier, too — it’s up to mid-August in my neck of the woods.

A peruse around the internet shows that I’m not alone in feeling dismay at the loss of the long and leisurely summer. Parents in Chicago and Newburyport, MA, successfully lobbied their school districts to start school after Labor Day. Indiana senators are trying to mandate a statewide post-Labor Day start to school.

Hopefully, you were fortunate to have had some leisurely family time this summer. Or, at the very least, some time free from homework, schedules, transportation, meetings, appointments, a busy calendar and a frazzled household. No matter when Back-to-School hits for you, it can be a challenge and a desire to keep the pace and spirit of summer in your family. Here are a couple of ideas for taming Fall frenzy.

Create Unstructured Family Time

Consider turning down the occasional invitation or activity to ensure that your family has some time by itself. Then devote to that time by not answering the phone and emails, and putting away the electronics and the to-do list. Families need to regroup and simply have unstructured time together – to play, to talk, to inadvertently create the small instances that go into the family memory bank. It is the little things that tend to bond families, and these often occur during unstructured time. This can be time to explore a craft or make music, just for the fun of it – in contrast to being in “achievement mode”. It can be a time to have a family game night or be outside in nature, to tell stories that meander as you do, or to merely observe the world. In earlier cultures, it was more common for people to take a break from the everyday. Today, in our 24/7 world, we sometimes have to create that time for ourselves and our families, in order to refresh, as well as re-engage with one another. If need be, schedule a family night on the calendar.

Eat As Many Meals As Possible Together

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Mealtimes are often the only times families have together. It can be incredibly grounding to just sit down all together at the end of the day and share triumphs and thoughts. It can take some planning to find the time between activities and work for everyone to come together, as well as the time to plan and prepare meals. If you enjoy cooking, doing so as a family can provide fun bonding time. If not, aim to keep weeknight meals simple and buy what you need for a few meals at once, to keep cooking and shopping times down, as well as costs. You can also make double batches of food, and then have the leftovers the next night. Or pick up take-out food on your way back into the house. While home-cooked meals are great, the time spent together is even more vital.

Spend Time in Nature Together

Nature’s schedule is so much broader than our busy one, that one can’t help but gain a little perspective simply by being outside. And, chances are that when you’re outside as a family, you’re getting some fresh air, physical beauty and exercise, which enliven the spirit as well as help create healthy habits for everyone. For some children, nature is where they feel happiest, and there are plenty of ways to enhance their experience of nature, whether through creating poetry or art out of what is observed, collecting items to display at home, playing games like Tag and Hide ‘n Seek, building forts, watching stars, or telling stories and playing word games together while on walks. Other families might enjoy biking, rollerblading or water sports as a way to be active together and do something a bit special. Chances are, even if you live in a city, there’s a bit of nature nearby. Looking for ideas? Check out the Children & Nature Network.

Cultivate Friendships With All Different People

Have people in your life who are different ages than you, or whom you don’t know through your child. Sometimes what gets lost as a parent is a sense of who we are as people, and others – with whom me might share non-parenting interests – can help us reconnect with that part of ourselves and with a broader range of interests and ideas than may be prevalent in the immediate circle of school. People who don’t have school-age children may be less harried themselves, so that you can’t help but slow down in their presence. Perhaps there is a neighbor or friend with whom your family would enjoy taking a walk or doing a craft. Especially if there are no grandparents nearby, a relationship with someone older can be a wonderful, life-enlarging experience for a child. Many senior facilities welcome young visitors with a parent. Performing a service, such as visiting a shut-in, is an excellent way to slow down, gain perspective and make a friend.

Say “No” to More Things

We parents don’t have to volunteer to take on more at work, or to serve on every school committee that needs us. Periodically assess your needs and your output and, if something is out of balance, readjust. Likewise, children don’t have to sign up for a lot of activities. Often, children are over-scheduled to the point of creating stress for the whole family. Perhaps explore one or two activities at a time, and carefully consider costs and benefits before adding any new ones. It may help to assure yourself that it is usually not the last opportunity for your child to enjoy ballet or soccer. More pleasure may come from devotion to one thing at a time.

Evaluate Your Own Desires

Are you signing your child up for activities you would have liked for yourself? While exposure to many things is delightful and, indeed, a luxury, too much of a good thing can backfire. Try to be clear about whether your own needs or anxieties about your child’s achievement are fueling a desire to over-schedule activities. Often what children want, when asked, is simply more unstructured time with their siblings, friends or parents.

Make Time for Yourself and Your Spouse

This is often the first thing that gets bumped off the list of priorities. Adults who are burned out have no resources left for their children. Perhaps, having cleared more time for family time, some self and couple time can emerge as well. If need be, schedule time to spend alone, as a couple, or with friends from other parts of your life, even if you can only do so once a month. Consider doing more family activities that, while age-appropriate, are not necessarily child-focused. Sometimes children come along on our activities more readily than we expect them to, and the results can be rewarding for everyone.

Get Enough Sleep

Missing out on sleep puts everyone in a bad mood, which can add to daily stress. Try to have a regular bedtime for children and for yourself. If work remains to be done into the night, tell yourself it can wait until tomorrow. If there’s time, a nice routine before bed, such as reading out loud (to children of any age) can be calming and put a nice cap on the day, which helps everyone get to sleep better.

Let Children be Children

Sometimes, in our rush toward achievement, we forget what it is like to be a child. Childhood still lasts about 18 years, which leaves plenty of time for  structured activities. Some unstructured time for children (to be alone, as well as with the family) is desirable. Don’t be afraid to let your child have down time, to daydream or explore on his or her own. To even — be bored. Every activity doesn’t have to lead to a future goal. And every moment doesn’t have to provide outside entertainment. In fact, our tendency to over-schedule and over-stimulate children can create undue stress for them, as well as the inability to simply entertain themselves, play freely, tolerate stillness, or discover their own inner compasses — who they are and what they like to do.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

These tips were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities and slowing techniques.

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