28 March 2016

let kids play

I've said this before: kids really need time and (mental) space to play. And we parents need to chill out on overscheduling our kids.

This is a great article on Quartz that looks at stress in young people and the rising rates of depression in our youth.
My hypothesis is that the generational increases in externality, extrinsic goals, anxiety, and depression are all caused largely by the decline, over that same period, in opportunities for free play and the increased time and weight given to schooling. 
It's a cry for help from kids who rush from judo to ballet lessons without a break, a reminder to parents that it's okay for kids to have some downtime to just meander and daydream, and a wake-up call to all of us that preparing for college when your toddler just wants to cuddle actually is causing damage to kids and families.
Playing—unstructured time, with rules set by the kids (no adults acting as referee)—is how kids learn independence, problem-solving, social cues, and bravery. 
In short:
Parents and educators need to understand that free play is not optionalIt’s essential to their healthy development. 

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids offers a similar message. The authors talk about how kids naturally lie on a spectrum from zero issues to a greater potential for particular issues, and by simplifying their lives and reducing the stress and pressure on them, even typically medicated illnesses may not manifest themselves. That's pretty powerful.

The German education system basically has kids play until they're in first grade. Then, at around seven years of age, kids learn to read and write. In the States, the pressure has been pushing kids to learn earlier and earlier, at the expense of play, and we don't seem to be doing any better for it.

So, take some time to literally smell the flowers with your kids. They'll be happier, more creative, and better adjusted. Which might get them into better colleges after all.

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