You call it Play…… We consider it our Work
Out of bed, dressed, breakfast, in the car, work, back in the car, home, dinner, and then bed. A basic outline of the day, but sounds pretty typical, doesn’t it? Exhausted? Yeah, come on, let’s be honest some days the feet have hardly touched the ground as we frantically get around everything that needs to be achieved and/or explored. A minute to yourself would be nice.
The work/interests of the day have been mentally and physically exhausting. There have been lots of challenges, problems to solve, risks to take, not to mention the courage required to take them. Responsibility, well that’s a huge prerequisite to being a leader, they say. The persistence required to cope with today’s changes, and adapt to them, have been a big challenge but resourcefulness was handy when there was a new idea. All the time being attentive was difficult when tiredness took over. Then there were the challenges of having to work alongside others, almost inevitable in the day which requires the ability to communicate, listen, co-operate, show some empathy and quite of bit of self-control and constraint some days.
Does this sound like your day? Definitely similarities I bet. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t talking about our day, I was describing that of a child’s.
So why is it that, as parents, we feel the need to cram in an extra curricular activity into a day that has already been mentally and physically exhausting for our children? Picture this, your boss has just asked you to do another hour’s work at the end of the day. Are you excited about that? Come on, you’ve worked hard all day, another hour, seriously you just want to go home and put your feet up. So why is it that we think that children have endless energy? We don’t and we are adults. What makes children any different?
What we forget is that, for children, everyday life is full of naturally occurring learning opportunities. Watching the rubbish truck, a snail slithering along a leaf or making a rainbow with the garden hose can capture the interest of a child when shared with a parent. By spending time with your child, sharing the ‘small things’, you are offering rich learning experiences. This time together deepens the relationship between child and parent. Learning and brain development is not limited to toys and activities specifically created for children but by also participating in the real world.
You are concerned your child will become bored if required to play by themselves? Children need opportunities to play on their own and remember, you have just picked them up from their work where they have been working alongside lots of people all day. Don’t think of boredom in a negative context. Boredom may provide the impetus for the child to make their own discoveries and create their own fun which are fantastic life skills and great stimulation for a growing brain. Children need stimulation, but as with many things, moderation is key. More is not necessarily better. Many children today are at risk of being over-stimulated or over scheduled and this can actually impede rather than encourage the optimal brain development. (O’Neill., 2009).
We need to remind ourselves that during the first years of a child’s life it is play, not scheduled instruction, that contributes the most to brain development (Frost, as cited in O’Neill, 2009).
We don’t need to formally ‘teach’ our young children in order for them to learn or do we need to cram their day full of extra activities.
O’Neill, K., as cited in Brain wave Trust Aotearoa 2014. First published Brainwave Trust Newsletter Issue 9, June 2009.