Just Let Your Kids Play, Already!

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There’s a disturbing trend happening in our culture today. In a world constantly chasing fame and fortune, parents have begun to prepare their children for this lifestyle at earlier and earlier ages. Gone are the days of teaching 4-year-olds how to tie their shoes and play with their dolls. The good ol’ days of letting your children run, explore, and use their imaginations is almost a thing of the past. We have now entered the Age of Overeducating Your Kids.

It’s a well-known fact that children are maturing at faster and faster rates these days, and adults everywhere solemnly shake their heads and click their tongues in despair because of this. But let’s take a look at one possible reason why this is happening.

Just a few generations ago, children were able to run and play and, well…be kids. Games of Kick the Can and street hockey were to be found in a great many neighborhoods. Kids were able to catch tadpoles and snakes or play house and Barbies to their heart’s content. If your kids’ days look like this, I applaud you because you are definitely going against the grain in society today.

Today’s norm has begun to look something like this…

Image courtesy of Jomphong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Jomphong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*Found out you’re expecting?? Great! Now let’s get down to business. First, find the most prestigious preschool for your child and submit an application before you’ve even had your first sonogram. It’s sooo important for baby to get into the right preschool, or it might upset his/her chances to get into an Ivy League school someday. You can never be too prepared…and those wait lists can be killer.*

Your baby’s 6 months old and not crawling, yet? Better pay for a therapist to come in…we don’t want baby to be behind. Oh, and don’t forget to show those sight word cards to her everyday. She needs to get a head start on her reading.

Happy 3rd Birthday, darling! You can’t really open your gift per se, you see, because we are giving you the gifts of French lessons and computer classes at your preschool! Isn’t it wonderful? What? You want to learn how to tie your shoes? Later, dear. Later.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. There is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, but it’s important to look at the motives behind it. Could it be…

-a hope for economic prosperity for your child

-a complete interest in giving your child a head start on life
or…I think the most popular reason…

-PRIDE…??

Could that have possibly entered the picture at some point? But so-and-so’s son is doing it- we can’t look bad. I feel so good when I tell people all about the wonderful things I am doing for my kids. It makes me feel like a better parent.

I really wish that these types of parents would remember one important thing. Their children are CHILDREN. Let them play. Let them dig up some worms, make mud pies, and get good and dirty. Childhood is but a tiny fraction of a person’s life. Don’t squander it on programming them to be little adults!

And it’s not just parents who are guilty of this. The school institution is just as culpable here. 5-year-olds who enter Kindergarten are expected to sit for long periods of time completing worksheets and busywork. Many adults have a hard time sitting for extended periods of time. Why would we expect this of our little ones? Granted, most children do learn to tolerate this tedium, but at what expense? A broken spirit. What else do you expect after their natural energy and curiosity are pushed farther and farther down until they learn to “sit still, keep your eyes and ears open and your mouths closed?”

Enter our current age of progress at all costs. Yes, children are maturing faster and faster. Of course they are. From a very early age, so many kids are being expected to behave like miniature adults. This is not what I want for my children.

I want them to be exactly what they are. Kids. I want them to get so excited about discoveries that they have to be told to quiet down a little. I want them to come back in from outside with slug juice all over their hands and mud all over their feet. I want to trip over their tents made of blankets and their dollhouses made of boxes. Why? Because then I know they are embracing their freedom to be who they are- not what I yearn for them to be. It’s not about me. It’s about them.

So when I hear my 12-year-old daughter calling for her siblings to come and play school, I can only smile. Because childhood lasts a little longer in this house.

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

36 thoughts on “Just Let Your Kids Play, Already!”

  1. I was just talking about this with my husband the other day when a mother told me that I was “failing my daughter” because we hadn’t enrolled her in soccer already or some other sport. She said that you have to show high school’s now that your child has had extensive training in the sport they are trying out for. Isn’t that crazy? I thought you were supposed to try different things to see what you liked, or that sports were just for fun. Took me by surprise.

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  2. I agree. It’s an amazing thing that on the one hand, children are so overscheduled and underplayed that they are really losing out on childhood; and yet, on the other hand, the academic standards have just become lower and lower (in this country, anyway). Children can’t spell, read or write cursive, do basic math facts. So they’re not spending time learning the three Rs. And they’re not spending time playing and being kids. What on earth ARE they spending their time on?

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  3. shared a few lines and a link to this post along with some pictures of my 1-year-old seemingly busy at the computer, doing a headstand/handstand and exploring the beautiful lawn (at a memorial park haha). she’s becoming really mobile right now and we do our best to let her be so she could explore the world. hopefully we’ll be able to get our own place with a huge backyard while she’s still a toddler.

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  4. I believe it’s very important to let a child use and develop their imagination and explore and learn about nature. If they have to many organised extracurricular activities then their imaginations don’t have a chance for free rein.

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    1. That’s so true. I’m not completely against organized activities, but it’s so important to limit them to one or two. A child’s natural curiosity provides more than enough stimulation for them.

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  5. Love this and completely agree. My kids often spend rainy days like today entertaining themselves with barbies and ponies. I think they painted and then gave each other make overs with my old makeup. When it’s nice they are outside for hours, but sometimes when I just leave them to play and entertain themselves I feel bad or like I’m a neglectful parent. I think today’s society with that whole pride thing is what leads to that guilt. Great post.
    Angela @ Time with A & N

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  6. I live in a college town and education, quality education is certainly a focus here. I wrestle with knowing what to do with my son. I was homeschooled and I’m hoping to homeschool my son, because, like you wrote, I too want him to grow up as a child, to play, explore, experience the joys of life as they come. Adult life is hard. I want my son to be ready, but I also want him to be a child…while he can.🙂

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  7. What a beautiful post, i love how you invite us to become more conscious of the motives behind our choices for our children. and being present for them the way that fits them not us. As a family coach advocating for peaceful parenting this is what i struggle most with parents; the pressure they feel towards “imposing” activities on their children to do for different motives most of which are social pressure.
    Great post, thank you for sharing it on mommy moments link up.
    Marwa @ BlossomFamily.net

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  8. I feel sorry for children in professional preschools and public/private Kindergarten today where the focus is pushing academics over play and natural learning. I’m so glad we are a family who actually values childhood. My teens still build with Legos, explore nature and read just for fun. They have played team sports and taken lessons in the past, but only for short seasons instead of continuously. We actually have time to just BE and I love that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. My sister-in-law works at a daycare, and she was excited to tell me that she has now become the 3-yr.-olds’ teacher because the other teacher was fired for, among other reasons, letting the kids play too much and doing art projects with them all day. Apparently, the parents there expect their kids to get school-type lessons as young as 2. Sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Shelly,

    So beautifully said🙂 !! I wholeheartedly agree. Play learning is one of the blessings of homeschooling. In our local public school district, children entering Kindergarten, need to be “ready”. Way back when my husband and I attended public school, Kindergarten was the place to “ready” us and not before. I really don’t understand this new educational mentality and I am just further reassured that homeschooling was THE BEST and still is THE BEST educational experience for children. There is so much freedom and flexibility to explore and learn at their own pace. My children are all grown up now at 25 and 22, but I would sooooo do it all over again from day one🙂

    Kudos to you-dos, Shelly for your playful homeschool❤❤❤ !!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just love it when I bump into you because your parenting philosophy seems to be so much like mine has been. (And don’t we love it when our prejudices are confirmed). I still love it when my big boys “play” and my favorite sound is their laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Someone had to say it! I’ve noticed it too – parents in my area have been looking for “summer enrichment classes” for their 4 year olds. Really? I know some kids will love that kind of thing (I was one of them) but most just want to play – and we should let them!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As the mother of three, this something that has concerned me. I want my children to have the experience of laying in the grass, watching the clouds go by and thinking deep (or silly) thoughts. Thanks for sharing at the #ThisIsHowWeRoll Link Party.

    Liked by 1 person

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