There is something I need you to know.
Your children really need to play.
Why, you ask, do I care?
I care because I work with infants and toddlers and have two elementary aged daughters. I see every day as an early childhood professional and as a parent what our society is doing to children and families. I’ve been there….where you may be. Sitting in a friend’s playroom with your two year olds. Looking at the 40 different toys that sing the alphabet and count in 4 languages. I’ve stared at the items labeled with site words around the room and the shelves of books and flashcards teaching letters and sounds. I have had the pang of panic. I’ve heard that little voice in my head, “If she can’t recite letters or shapes or count..how…will..she.. EVER be ready for Kindergarten?” “If she can’t sit through story hour…how will she EVER sit through circle time?” “If she can’t recognize her letter sounds..how..will..she..EVER get into HARVARD?”
What you need to know.
PLAY builds brains. Simple as that. 40% of the neural connections in the brain at birth are “extra.” Babies prune out what they don’t need and strengthen what they use. Flip flashcards in front of their face and yes, they might be able to recite back that small amount of information on cue. Let them make shapes out of stones, turn Play doh into pictures, and count while throwing blocks into a bucket and they will LEARN and REMEMBER. Why? Because REAL LEARNING occurs in context. Children learn through all senses…engage them and it becomes permanent for them. Your child can’t sit still? GOOD. They shouldn’t be able to! Learn while MOVING through PLAY! Jump, climb, dance. This is what small children should do.
How this applies to you.
Your parent gut screams to you loud and clear what your child needs. So tell it to stare that message that society is sending you down, and tell it to ZIP IT. Your actions and decisions as a parent matter for your child. I don’t say this to stress you. I say it to EMPOWER you. Breathe. Your child needs you and time and space to PLAY. How can this look for your family? SCHEDULE unscheduled time. Don’t sign up for so many (or any) “classes” for infants and toddlers. Go to the park or join a play group instead. Looking for daycares or preschools? Search for ones that have less “curriculum” and more play. Don’t ask the teacher “what did she learn today?” Ask, “What did they play today?” Because the answer to the second question will tell you WHAT SHE LEARNED. Don’t feel like she didn’t get the whole experience you paid for if there is NO WORK SHEET at the end of the day. I have an 8 year old. Trust my journey if I have come before you…you will get enough worksheets in your child’s lifetime to wallpaper 4 houses. If you are handed an art project that looks different than the other children’s EMBRACE IT. It means your child is learning to express themself individually. If it appears your child spent all day JUST PLAYING… EMBRACE IT. It means he had time to build his own interests, socialize with friends, learn to resolve conflicts, and release stress. It means he was able to keep his body healthy and sensory system regulated.
The good news?
Do Less. Enjoy more. Be in the moment. Just say no to the craziness of it all. You will be happier. Your child will be happier – and healthier & smarter too.
PLAY BUILDS BRAINS.
So enjoy your kid. Go PLAY!
For more information on what REAL development looks like (no reading at 18 months is NOT TYPICAL) and ways to support development through PLAY – click here)