With the push for an earlier and earlier start to academics for our kids, we all know the best thing we can do for them is let them play for as long as we can. Yet, scrolling through my facebook and pinterest feeds I sometimes wonder if this push for academics is making its way into the home. Can’t we stop trying to make everything educational?
Everywhere I look there’s themed worksheets and clever ideas for tricking your child into learning things you think they should learn with ‘fun’ activities. Firstly, we don’t need to make learning ‘fun’. Learning is fun. Children are born to learn and they love to learn. Everyone knows this. But when you start getting into the habit of trying to take over and control their learning it tends to lose its appeal. And then yeah, maybe you do have to trick them into it. It makes more sense to me not to get into that habit in the first place.
Secondly, children are not stupid. They know when you’re trying to disguise learning behind a ‘fun’ activity. They feel your hidden expectations and pressure. I don’t want to go down that road either. Personally, I don’t think there’s ever a time for coercive learning but early childhood is especially not the time! There’s no rush right now, the most important thing is play. So let’s not do anything that may dampen that beautiful love of learning and innate curiosity so soon.
Thirdly, do children have to be learning all the time? I don’t think so. I mean, they probably are anyway, but we don’t need to pack as much educational stuff as we can into every experience. If your child develops an interest in frogs you don’t need to print out frog themed ABC worksheets to try and entice them into handwriting practice by using one of their interests. If your child is creative you don’t have to organise a dozen craft activities for them to complete. Yikes, if that was me I might not be so keen to share my interests again, ha!
Children are constantly learning new things anyway, just because you might not be able to see it (or measure it), or it’s not something that’s traditionally ‘academic’ doesn’t mean it’s not there. Not all learning is that obvious or quantifiable. Maybe they’ll share it with you when they’re ready? Maybe they don’t want to? Do you want to share every little thing you learn with other people? Or are there some things you just keep to yourself? Is it even our right to constantly judge and test and evaluate? Can’t we just observe and trust? I think so.
“Nobody grew taller by being measured.” – Roland Meighan
Now I’m not saying don’t support your child’s interests, don’t be involved with their learning, don’t ask questions, don’t offer ideas. Not at all! Support them, most definitely! Let’s just be mindful of the way in which we do that. What are our expectations here? Are we thinking about what will be beneficial to the child or is it more to satisfy some need in us?
Don’t take over. Don’t have an ulterior motive. Let them lead the way. Ask them what they think. Ask them what they would like to know more about. Wonder with them. Encourage them. Provide resources if they ask. Take them to the library to learn more. Just have fun. Trust them, and trust that the learning is happening all the time. There is no rush. Let them be little.