Childhood Development in Jeopardy: How You Can Make a Difference

Childhood development once a major focus in programs for preparing teachers, seems to be forgotten.

The onslaught of standardized testing, the explosion of technology, and high academic expectations, appear to overpower learning and respecting developmental stages.

What does “high academic expectations” even mean? That a toddler writes the dinner menu, adds up all the books in the bookshelf then divides into equal parts and completes the rock science project? That a kindergartener reads novels, multiplies by 9s, and engineers the next big thing?  What are we aiming for folks?

As a teacher, parent, or caregiver you have way more power than you think.  I propose that you stop and think long and deeply about a childhood you want to offer to your child/ren or students. Here is what to do:

 

play

Let Them Play:

A simple and best practice for natural stages of development is play.

My father said, “If there is no imminent danger, let them play.”

A kindergarten teacher who was my mentor, said to me, as we watched the little ones climb to the top of the monkey bars, some unsteadily, yet determined, “I let my students do as they wish, it is important for them to explore, extend themselves, and yes, even fall.  I will not teach them fear.”  By the way, none of her students, the year I worked under her guidance, ever fell.

play-bully

Play and bullying

Logically speaking and thinking, many bullying problems occurred when play started to diminish.  Children become less equipped with language, human engagement, and confidence in their physical body, as well as mental strength when play is not available.

I have an operating theory, that less play has contributed to bullying – when children don’t get enough, not only do they miss out on the full length of a developmental stage, they miss out on solving, for example, social engagement, social skills, and figuring out communication when expressing likes and dislikes.

 

play-with-ribbonPlay activities:

Bring back scissors with lots of opportunities for cutting paper, string, leaves, small twigs, cardboard boxes, ribbon, and the occasional hair (be prepared it may happen to a doll or some real hair; laugh, take a picture, save the hair)

Have brooms readily available for sweeping the class or the leaves or sand.

Allow children to play with sticks; drawing on the ground, swatting at tree leaves, or running them along the fence.

Keep chalk outdoors and indoors, readily available for doodling, drawing, tracing, or coloring. (whiteboards and dry erase markers will not pack the same bang for your buck, there is texture to chalk and crayons).

Puzzles, board games, and blocks where children are using their fingers or hands to manipulate and move pieces.  While also using their minds for spatial relationships, planning, strategizing, creating, executing, and completion – life skills and body skills rolled into one.

Drastically eliminate if not altogether eradicate technology or screens.  Especially in the younger years/grades.  There is zero benefit, zero, to screen time that is relatable or applicable to a young mind when it comes to development.

If you hit a real snag with a school where your child attends, rally some like-minded parents, coordinate a strategy, and meet with administrators. (It is not the teachers who are looking to eliminate your child’s developing, learning, and joy through play) Unless you’re too busy watching your children play!

Teachers, I suggest the same to you. If you are weighted down by the testing, rigors, and lack of your students getting to play – find out who on staff feels the way you do and work on solutions, bringing parents on board, and meeting with administrators.

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