What Happened To Kids Being Kids?
It seems like everyone wants kids to grow up too fast these days. It begins when they are only little babies and parents are comparing who walked first or talked first; and then it continues to school where parents are talking about who studies harder or plays more sports.
My four year old is “supposed” to go to school next year – to Prep. She will be 4 years old when she starts, and she will have to sit in a classroom for 6 hours a day, learning, studying, and then – when she comes home from school – she’s going to have to do homework! Schools vary, but I’ve heard from a friend who has a son at this school, it generally takes him about half an hour a day to finish his homework.
And she is only going to be 4 years old. But the thing is, the Government here in Australia thought that it was smart to force us to send our kids to Prep (Preparatory School) for a year before they go into Grade 1 – and now its compulsory (starting this year). If it wasn’t compulsory, I wouldn’t be sending my daughter. I think 12 years of school is enough – and now they are making it 13 years. So I’m faced with the dilemma, do I send her next year (like most of her current daycare friends) – or do I let her stay out of school to play for another year because that’s what a 4 year old should be doing?
I’m still undecided, which is why I am putting a lot of effort into research. And just so that my research can help someone else as well – here are some of the things I’ve learned.
The Benefits Of Play Time
There are a number of types of play, including role play, playing with friends, imaginative play, and so on. Children benefit both from playing on their own, to playing with others. They can make their own rules or follow other people’s rules of the games, teaching them the value behind rules; or they might work on something on their own developing their own personal skills (such as dressing dolls, playing with blocks, and so on). Each type of play teaches your child something different, including independence!
Obviously play is important for the development of your child and there are numerous benefits to play.
It encourages imagination, helps them to learn and helps them to get a better understanding of the world around them – and their place within it. The art of pretending isn’t one that comes easy, but children start to do this from around 2 years of age. Pretend play can be anything from getting out the pots and pans and pretending they are a drum kit, to building a cubby house and pretending it’s a house, or running around pretending they are super heroes. They can play on their own – dressing their dolls and acting out the doll’s movements and talking; or they can play together. My 4 year old daughter loves to pretend she is Moana, dragging her 20 month old brother around with her everywhere – pretending he is Maui (and he loves every minute of it, even if he doesn’t quite understand what his role is supposed to be). He just loves the interaction with her.
Assists With Physical Development
Play time can help children overcome any physical development problems they may have, or just helps them create better physical skills. This includes things like skipping – which can enhance their balancing skills, playing on the swings and using coordination to keep the swing moving with their legs, kicking or throwing a ball which requires great coordination. Stacking blocks is something we encourage our kids to do from a very young age, and this is fantastic to create a steady hand and to get them to focus their eyes properly. It’s these little things they do when they are really young, that help them to develop into riding bikes, and even athletics if they decide to go in that direction. And this type of play can actually help your child relax as well.
Helps With Emotions
As we just mentioned, physical play can actually help your child relax. And it’s the same with most types of play. It helps children deal with their emotions, through telling stories or pretending to be someone they aren’t. Often this allows children to express emotions that they would otherwise be too scared to say (which is why many psychiatrists or counselors use play to talk to children who have been acting out or who have experienced some type of trauma). Or it could be that they are showing you something that has happened to them – for example if they were pushed over at the park or daycare, they might start pushing at home during playtime because they are trying to work out what actually happened and why.
Play time also encourages problem solving, builds a range of skills that will help them as they grow into adults, and helps your child to become more social or at least to develop the right skills for when they go out in the world. This includes learning to share, cooperate with others and even learning to negotiate.
There are so many benefits to play – if only we could all do it forever! The important thing is that we don’t rush our children to grow up before they need to. They are only young once and they should be enjoying their childhood, with our full support. And while you’re at it, get out there and play with them every chance you get – it’s a great way to relieve stress and get a little more bonding time with your kids before they reach the “I’m too cool for mum/dad” stage of their lives.