I yesterday already shortly mentioned that toddlers should have more time to just play and not sit in school-like classrooms yet. I actually think we are taking a part of our sons’ and daughters’ childhood if we send them to school too early. Or if we pack their day full with a busy schedule leaving them no time for free play. Unfortunately this is something that we see more and more often these days.
I experience this in India a bit, more than that in Germany but the most, I saw it in the USA. When we were there, we met mothers and children who told me that the kids did not have even one free moment during the whole week. They had school the whole day long, from quite an early hour, until the late afternoon, when their parents returned from work as well.
The children had breakfast and lunch at school, did their homework there and of course all school lessons took place in that time. After that, there were ‘leisure’ activities, which were however a must in the school. The children had to take part in those game lessons, guided by a teacher or professional educator.
On the one or two days on which school ended early, the parents had made sure that there was no time for getting bored: sports clubs, classes for learning an instrument and, if nothing else, play dates arranged by the parents. The children won’t get bored – but they also don’t have any free time for themselves! Even on Sundays, there is church school – another day full of activity.
They don’t have any period of time to do whatever they want. Even social activities are supervised and guided, they have limited space to decide on their own. I believe this actually limits their freedom, their power of imagination and their ability to fill their time on their own.
I am not saying that the children don’t enjoy all of these activities. They may love playing the flute, going to basketball training, even the homework lessons or activity classes at school. The theater groups and the library lessons. But that all is what they are told to enjoy from the outside.
Why can’t we let our children give more space to decide on their own what they would like to do? Provide them an instrument and lessons only if they really wish to? Why do we insist that they go to playdates when they actually would rather lie on the couch at home and read a book? Can we not give our children the information and possibility to play and discover the world in any direction they want?
I know that this may sound funny to some but I think we are robbing our children of their childhood, the time that they have without too many responsibilities and free to do what they like. If you don’t let them enjoy this feeling of freedom now, how will they ever learn in their life to just lie back and see what they really want to do?
Instead, they will follow what society tells them to, just because they are so used to guided activities! Well-behaved members of a society that wants people to work, consume and do what everyone else does. They will buy what advertisement tells them to because they have always done what they were told. They will be good employees, filling their work schedules until the last minute and agreeing on doing more than they actually want. Because they are used to it. Because they were always doing exactly that.
Until, sooner or later, they just burn out.
Yes, I believe we place the seeds for burn-out and depression already with our small ones. I will write more about that tomorrow.