Saturday, January 28, 2012

The change from play to learning

I'll be the first to admit that I could be classified as a free range parent. When my kids were toddlers I went with their schedule of what they wanted to do. If they brought me a book, I read it. If they brought me crayons, we colored. If they brought me 3 knives out of the kitchen to juggle, we had a talk about why that was not a good idea. I didn't force them to sit and learn their abc's on flash cards, we just sang them on the way to Grandma's house.

There is a movement in America today that isn't allowing kids to be kids. Some how our society has gotten it engraved into our brains that kids need to be learning something every second of every day from the minute that they are born. We have taken their care free days of childhood and replaced them with structure, activities, and a small amount of "free play" that parents schedule in between swim class and piano lessons. Parents have started telling their children when it's okay to be a kid.

In most communities, gone are the days that kids could play outside from sunup to sundown. With main stream media on our televisions 24 hours a day we see the horrors of the world more often. Whole hours are dedicated to the kidnapping of children, we sit captivated by our screens as parents are tried for murder, and get enraged when a jury of our peers doesn't convict them of the charges. We have started keeping our children in a protective bubble not allowing them the freedom that we had as children.

When we as parents are looking for a preschool for our children we aren't looking to see how much free time they get, what their play ground looks like, or what art projects our kids will be doing. We are more concerned with the core curriculum, that in some preschools rivals ivy league colleges. Some parents have even gone as far as to request that their children not be allowed to go outside with the other children during free time, that their children be kept inside doing quiet learning activities.

We have wondered why America has a 17% obesity rate. Why our arts are struggling. Why our children would rather sit in front of a computer screen, tv, or video game as they grow older. Why kids won't just play any more. Our move from letting kids be kids where they grow and learn as they explore and play to structured days of in seat learning has finally started showing poor consequences.

As a society we need to get back to letting our youngest members not be so structured. Without the skills of playing learned at a young age, they grow up unable to use them. While these children do need to learn, we also need to remember that they need to be doing things their way more than they are. Some of us have our children's lives so structured that they feel that we need to entertain them from the time that they wake up to the time that they fall asleep to their noise machines. Maybe if we get back to letting them discover things at a young age, and be more independent without us telling them when, where, and what time to be independent we won't have to entertain them constantly.

Do you think that if we start letting kids be kids again we will solve some of the problems facing parents today?


  1. Amen! Love this. Following from Bloggy Moms.

  2. As a 5th and 6th grade social studies teacher I couldn't agree with you more. By this age, the children should be learning study skills, but I often find that they are burned out by the time they get to my class. I try to make learning fun but it isn't always possible as the grades get higher. The earlier we start the harder it is to keep the students entertained as they rise in age.

    I let my children explore and learn as it came to them when they were young, and they compete with the other children just fine in 3rd and 5th grades. I don't think we need to push kids constantly.

  3. Karen I couldn't agree more. My kids are all very smart, in advanced classes, and know how to actually play. I make sure that they have time to unwind after school each day just so they don't get burnt out!

  4. Karen, I so agree with you. Our oldest are 36 and 35, both girls. I remember taking time out of my day to just read, color and watch them play at the park. I wish that our children didn't feel that they had to grow up so fast. They are children such a short time and then it is onto adulthood.
    I believe that children need to learn through play and then when it come time for school, then it is time to learn. We always sang the ABC"s and we even made songs up for Spelling words.
    When I taught 5th grade, my students loved learning things through song and it seemed to stick with them. I was always looking for things, my students could do to learn outside the box.

    1. Sharree you sound like you would have been such a fun teacher!

  5. nice blog
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  6. This is why I will choose a montessori style learning environment for my son. Less structure, less of a teacher lecturing students for hours on end, more hands on, more play time and I like that a lot of montessori schools are "child lead" learning. If a child shows particular interest in a certain subject then that child learns that subject while another child right next to them might be learning something else that week. I totally agree and while I have had a somewhat structured day for my son, just down to breakfast, snack, lunch, nap times and bed time rituals, I certainly don't sit there making him recite flashcards all the time. But if he brings me a book, like you I read it, but I do challenge him and ask him questions about the book, or ask him to tell me a story with the book to help grow his imagination.

    Anyway, this was written very well!

    Heather From and Mommy Only Has 2 Hands!

    1. I'll admit I haven't really looked into Montessori Schools mainly because we don't have any around here lol I do love the public school that my children attend though, they are great with my kids who are just blooming there.

      Thank you for the compliment on my post too :)

  7. Came over through SITS and I have to say, I couldn’t agree more! We moved our daughter to her current daycare not necessarily for the curriculum, but that it seemed to have a good balance of structure and play. The playgrounds (yes, multiple) are HUGE, and the daycare is small. That said, when one of the ‘teachers’ told me that she had to develop lesson plans for one-year olds I looked at her and said “that’s nuts”!