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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Giving Our Kids the Play Space They Need


By Andrea Nair
March 6, 2014

Children need play for positive development. It is how their little bodies release stress, exercise, make sense of things, expand their minds, and nurture a natural love of learning.

While reading an article by psychotherapist Katie Hurley called, Stressed Out In America: 5 Reasons To Let Your Kids Play ,” I realized parents really need to be the protectors of their child’s playtime.

I also discovered through interviewing parents that lovely, well-intentioned ones are pushing their children into numerous extracurricular activities believing it is best for them, when it may actually be creating issues:
  • People have their whole lives to learn instruments, sports, and dance; starting as early as possible is not essential.
  • Motivation can die when children are pushed beyond what their interest level can hold. Children often become discouraged when they feel overwhelmed, tired or nagged. When a parent needs to constantly push a child to engage in their piano or Spanish lessons, that child’s natural interest can flat line.
  • Free play gives children the space they need to make their own choices, and to feel powerful and interested in the world. It gives kids time to work through their own frustration when they are challenged.

When I ask parents why they are filling their kid’s schedules, the most common response I get is, “My parents didn’t sign me up for things. I don’t want my kids to lose out on opportunities like I did.”

It isn’t unusual for us to swing the pendulum to the other side when we feel we were lacking as a child. What is even more powerful is when a parent feels he or she wasn’t “seen” as a child and mistakenly tries to avoid the same pitfall by overdoing it with their kids.

Another thing robbing our children of their much-needed playtime is homework. Research still fails to show that homework is beneficial in elementary school, yet parents and educators are not responding fast enough to this knowledge. Unhelpful and unnecessary homework is still being assigned, causing stress for families.

I offer suggestions as to what helpful homework is, and how you can talk to your teacher about your child’s homework load HERE.

"When you think about it, it's kind of weird that, after spending all day in school, kids are asked to do more academic assignments when they get home. What's weirder still about that is we don't think it's weird."
—Alfie Kohn

Watch this great, short video by Kohn on this topic!

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