This article, by Early Childhood Programs Coordinator Mary Scott Hackman, was also posted on Kidoinfo.
The summer crowd has a special feel here at Providence Children’s
Museum. Visitors seem relaxed and joyful, peer excitedly around corners,
anticipate what the next room or exhibit will hold, hold hands with
their children, and run up the ramp, entirely open to the possibilities.
The unplugged, gleeful way they experience the Museum shouts, “We’re on
contrast, the approach of our visitors changes in September. Parents or
caregivers engage with their children but they don’t necessarily lose themselves
in play in the same way. Their cell phones are on and they are likely
watching the clock so they can run to school to pick up their other
child and deliver him to some after-school activity. Everyone is back on
schedule! As summer comes to a close I wonder, how can we hold on to
that carefree summer attitude when the reality of fall is moving in so
Working Americans operate under the myth that if you put in more
hours, you are more productive. And ever since “No Child Left Behind,”
classrooms have operated under a similar premise, limiting recess or
removing it entirely. But this shift is not translating into more
academic success. Not only is being too busy not productive, it actually makes us – young and old – more stressed, more burned out, and less healthy.
Overscheduling elementary school-age kids is a modern day parent trap.
When parents sign their children up for this lesson and that sport,
they think they are being good parents whose children will be happy and
accomplished. We think we’re saving our children by keeping them busy,
but we’re actually burning them out before they have a chance to
Parents are also under pressure to start scheduling their children
and introducing academics at a younger age. But research shows that
children who attend preschools where academics are emphasized are more
likely to experience higher levels of test anxiety, are found to be less
creative, and generally have more negative attitudes towards school
than children attending a play-based preschool.
noted authority on parenting and child development, stated a sad
reality: “Over the last two decades alone, children have lost eight
hours of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play a week.” So what is
the answer? I think we need to make critical decisions about where and
how children spend their early years and watch them for signs of
burnout. Make a goal to leave more hours of non-screen free
time in kids’ schedules. Let them have an opportunity to be bored and
encourage them to find creative ways to spend their time, allowing them
to get caught up in open-ended, self-directed, no-rules play. Give the
kids a break – and yourselves a break, too!