Play is crucial for children’s cognitive, physical and emotional well being. However, most of today’s children play less than past generations. This is caused by our focus on academic activities and rushed lifestyle. If we want our children to be smart, they need to learn at their own pace. Free play is the best way for them to do that. They learn best when it’s an activity that they initiated. We all learn and perform better when we are doing something we want to do.
Children in daycare don’t get to play as they please. They are part of a group and need to follow a schedule and rules. We tend to believe that daycare is a good place for children to learn, but it’s actually a barrier. They spend their time doing structure. Plus children in daycare are pressured to learn fast and keep up with the other children. The truth is all kids will get to an equal level at some point but they don’t grow physically or mentally at the same rate. The pressure doesn’t allow children to flourish as they would if they were free to be themselves and to play as they please.
My son gets to spend almost every day however he wants. He colors when he wants to, he play with his toys when he wants to, he naps when he needs to, he eats when he is hungry. Also, my son loves music. I can see that he is gifted in that area even if he is only 21 months. What’s great about being home with mommy is that he gets to sing, listen to music and play instruments everyday because he loves it. He is expressing himself and releasing emotions through his favorite activities. Every day he initiates an activity related to music. If he was in daycare, he would not have so many opportunities to do what he loves. I don’t care whether he is good at music or not. I care that he is happy. However, by letting him be, he will be good at it because he loves it and he has an opportunity to enjoy his talent. So many children grow up thinking they don’t have a talent or something unique to them. We all do have unique skills. But some get the opportunity to discover it and are encouraged to pursue it. In today’s society, we want kids to behave, read and write. Some parents might not recognize the importance of artistic activities. Therefore, the artistic children will grow up confuse on what they want or what they like because they were pushed to be someone they are not. We want to mold children to what’s “acceptable” to society. But if we look around, the successful people are the ones that don’t follow the crowd. By successful, I mean happy.
One day my son asked me to go to the basement and play with a drum set toy. I was busy and asked him to wait a little. But he insisted and got upset. So I stopped what I was doing and went down with him. Right away, he started to bang so hard on these drums and sing so loud. He was so into it. I was so glad I listened to his desire to go downstairs and play. He obviously had emotions he needed to deal with and this is how he released them. Play is where children express themselves and deal with their emotions.
If he was in daycare, how would he have handled these emotions? May be through a different kind of play. But what if it was nap time and was expected to sleep? What if it was coloring time and he didn’t feel like coloring? Can you imagine how much emotions would have been held in?
I think we expect too much from children by wanting them to behave, be quiet and follow rules. By doing this, we are expecting them to be in the adult world. We, the adults have a hard time behaving, staying still and following rules. Children should be children. This means, play, be loud, make mistakes, make a mess, and be silly.
We believe by introducing an academic style environment we are making our kids smarter. The truth is nature knows best. Children need to play, love to play and want to play.
So for a smarter happy child, the key is plenty of free play!
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