“Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress-the stress borne of rapid, bewildering social change and constantly rising expectations.” –David Elkind
Our children are under immense pressure to perform, both behaviorally and academically, beyond their physical years in age. As a parent and educator, I feel outraged by these developmentally inappropriate standards and have chosen to not subject my children and students to them. Not only do today’s developmentally inappropriate standards make our children miserable and cause unnecessary stress on our teachers and caregivers, they have yet to prove how they are benefiting any of our children. Yet, we have policy makers, enough teachers, and caregivers buckling under the pressure and buying into the false idea that “earlier is better”. Frankly, I am getting tired of reading about those happy, illiterate children of Finland whose parents and teachers confidently dare to allow their children and students more time in the day to play without fear of society judging for not pushing them to be little early readers and number crunchers. I want the rest of the world to start reading about the happy, illiterate children of the United States of America.
Policy makers, early educators, and parents…I want you to know that the research continues to point to the benefits of play! There IS NO research that proves our children will lead more successful adult lives, and be better contributing members of society, by pushing early academic achievement. However, we are seeing the effects of less play, overly scheduled childhoods, and the early push for academic achievements. The results are not pretty. We need community leaders and policy makers to dare to stand up to the ever demanding pressure and ask, “How are these teaching practices benefiting the children? If they aren’t, let’s make the change.”
“Neuroscientists, developmental biologists, psychologists, social scientists, and researchers from every point of scientific compass know that play is a profound biological process.” –Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughn, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
Play is the good stuff that our young children need. The act of play is brain-building and it feeds their intellect. We must demand that our policy makers are asking themselves, “How are these teaching practices benefiting the children?” As parents, we must continue to stand-up and refuse to allow policy makers to subject our children to inappropriate teaching practices. If we do, I believe we will start seeing more bills passed that protect our children from developmentally inappropriate standards.
Standing up to the current norm takes courage and a willingness to withstand criticisms. I believe that we each must have the courage to do so. Alone we might not be able to change the whole system, but, together we can certainly begin going in the right direct, and hold policy makers to the standard of asking themselves, “How are these teaching practices benefiting the children?” Our children’s brain development deserves this, at the very least.
*Erin Hendrix is a mother of 3, educational consultant with Hendrix Consulting, literacy expert with Story Time with Amber and Erin and an early childhood educator.*