Playdates and early academics interfere with a creative childhood   1 comment

An aspect that solely defines childhood in every culture is play.  No matter where children are found or at what time in history they have lived, children have and will always learn about their world through play.  There have been times in history where the playfulness of childhood had been cut short due to poverty or war.  But in recent times, children’s play has been suffering due to over-involvement from adults.  I believe this over-involvement comes in two forms; the push for early academics and too much structured play, such as a playdate. 

The word playdate actually makes me cringe. It brings to mind images of helicopter moms overly concerned with their child’s social calendar.  I have nothing against children playing together – but I guess what I find irritating about playdates is that it is yet another adult orchestrated child activity.  Many times the mom has crafts and a special activity planned – bless her heart. But what I think children need more of is unstructured, unplanned play and loads of it.  The kind where you throw them out the door and say, “Don’t come in unless someone’s bleeding – profusely!”   

When I started half-day kindergarten in 1973, I had never been to preschool or had any kind of lesson or activity.  I played my days away at home with my sister.  Today, most children attend preschool for a couple of years before they go to all day kindergarten with possibly afterschool care for a couple of hours.  Even before they get to preschool, as babies, they are plopped in front of Baby Einstein videos, with the hope of giving them an academic edge, but in reality it just produces kids who have spent more time than necessary in front of the TV screen. 

The push to get children involved in academics does not seem to be producing smarter kids.  My oldest son is in college and I returned to school last year and we are both appalled at how truly uneducated young people are.  We are required to read our classmates’ papers in some of the classes and both my son and I are blown away by much of what we read.  So many cannot express themselves properly in writing; awful grammar and punctuation – one paper I read the person did not know how to punctuate a quotation.   If this is the result of fifteen years of schooling, from the ages of 3 to 18, it’s definitely not working. 

All this structure robs our children of the chance to be bored.  Bored?  I know that you are thinking that being bored is a bad thing, but boredom gives kids the chance to come up with something to do on their own.  No one has scheduled a playdate for them, no Gymboree class to go to, or preschool to fill the time – they have to use their own creativity to fill their days, not just find something to do for a half an hour before supper. 

Of course a structured activity is not bad.  My kids have taken art classes, gymnastics and have been invited on playdates.  But when it’s all put together and most of the hours of their day are orchestrated by someone else, the freedom to use their own creativity and find ways to fill their time is gradually lost. 

Play is the work of childhood.  If we continue to devalue it and replace it with activities, electronic media and academics, I think we will continue to see a decline in creativity and educational performance in our youth.  We need to tell our children more often to… “Go find something to do.”

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Posted March 19, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in childhood

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One response to “Playdates and early academics interfere with a creative childhood

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  1. Pingback: A little light reading… | Turkeydoodles

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