Do you know somebody that pushes his or her toddler or kid to achieve but to the point that it is ridiculous? I feel compelled to write this post because I feel that I have been challenged about whether I am letting my kid “slack too much”. I remember sitting in a family counseling course one day, and we watched a video about a child who was overworked at school and at home. She was so anxious about making straight A’s that she would be physically sick if she received grades lower than an A. She was clearly anxious because her parents instilled in her that she had to make A’s. She also participated in every sport imaginable. She eventually was put on an anti-anxiety medicine. Unfortunately, she committed suicide. The point of the video was about whether medicines contribute to suicide. Anyways, this is not really valid to the point I am trying to make because we are talking about toddlers. However, that day really made me think about how much I would push my kids academically.
So, let’s talk about preschool aged children. Preschools are supposed to get between 10-14 hours of sleep, depending on the age of the child. Three year olds typically get more sleep than 5 years old. Many preschoolers also attend a preschool. At this age, a significant part of preschool learning is about socialization, shapes, numbers, and the alphabet. Of course, a parent can homeschool a preschooler at home as well. Taking your preschooler on various “field trips” is also a great learning experience also. A simple trip to the grocery store can be a great experience for your little one. I remember when somebody told me their child was registered for preschool and the relatives of this child was talking about the “highly advanced curriculum” the child will experience. “Oh he will be learning algebra, Greek lessons, and World Georgraphy!” (they literally didn’t say those subjects, but they might as well had). Internally, I had to chuckle a bit. I mean, as someone who has an education about education, I am familiar with what curriculum is appropriate for certain levels of children. I am also aware that if you try to convince me that your 3 year old will be learning algebra at his new preschool, I am going to respond and say your preschool has a great marketing department! If you are interested in what the general public school curriculum is for K-8, click HERE. My point is, why would you want your 3 year old to know algebra? Unless your 3 year old is REALLY interested in it, why would you even push that?
I am an advocate of allowing your child to express interest in various subjects. So, let’s say little 3 year old Timmy wants to learn about all the presidents, awesome! However, I think it would be over the top for a parent to have study sessions nightly for a month to memorize all the presidents. If little Timmy is also taking soccer, baseball, Gymboree, and having daily president lessons on top of his regular preschool curriculum, then something is going overboard here. I have met some kids that are 100% book smart; however, were lacking the imagination department.
If you asked them to play a game and “pretend” to be something….they would be like, “what”? Those are the kids that think, “Mickey Mouse is just an animated cartoon”. Do you see where I am going with this? These kids are so focused on education, that they have not had time to be a kid.
My post might sound all over the place, but the point I am trying to drive home is to allow your kids be kids. Preschoolers need time to unwind, rest, and just free play. Free play is allowing the child to PLAY without being directed. Your preschooler should be allowed to explore, imagine, and be creative. In fact, free play is so important, that many play therapists practice by allowing their patients to play with no direction. This method is exactly what I did when practicing play therapy techniques.