Where Is Childhood Hiding?

Having a chance to learn through play and deep relationships is essential to the healthy of today’s youngest children. Unfortunately, a combination of stresses caused by technology and too much academic work too early is endangering the childhood of today’s kids. Although there are still a generation of parents who remember what it was like to play outside for hours at a time, this is not necessarily the norm for many of today’s young children.

Parents are concerned about creating great athletes or developing young scholars, and as a result they push their children into situations that do not allow children to just play. When children were allowed to be kids they learned many of life’s lessons for themselves in non threatening environments. They learned that you can make mistakes, pick yourself up, and continue on your way. Educational experts are becoming increasingly alarmed that because children are forced into overly structured classrooms too soon, they lack the empathy, the patience, and the curiosity that children of the past were known for.

Once in school, studies continue to show that even the youngest of children are not only given long days of increasingly rigorous work to complete, they are also expected to take homework home many, if not most, nights a week.

What Are the Best Things to Do with Children and Their Educational Choices?

At the same time when many experts are talking about the importance of play when children are young, there are a growing number of reports about the importance of early childhood education. Parents can find themselves caught in the middle between trying to preserve childhood for their sons and daughters while also wanting to make sure that they are prepared for the competition of today’s world. Like most situations in life, of course, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Learning through play is likely one of the best options. This means, of course, that instead of allowing your children to spend hours glued to a screen, it is more important to provide a healthy mix of play activities that can help teach. For instance, childrens play museums and other kinds of educational museums may provide the best answers.

Did you know, for instance, that a recent study indicated that 88% of preschoolers playing with blocks were engaged in at least one math building activity? Even though they do not think of it as math, the block building activities of our youth provide a perfect option for things to do with children that will allow them a great combination of play and education. At local museum exhibits that provide much larger building blocks that provide for structures as tall as the children there are even more opportunities.

Parents often focus on the fact that research like that from the U. S. Department of Commerce indicates that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. It is important to realize, however, that not all learning has to be formal. Knowing things to do with children can simply be a matter of observing and following the child. Maria Montessori may have coined this phrase more than 100 years ago, but the best parents and educators know that the best things to do with children are those that engage them completely.

As more and more people look for ways to make sure they are combining a healthy mix of childhood play and educational opportunities, it is encouraging to know that a recent study showed that 74% of middle school girls express an interest in engineering, science, and math. This is a step in the right direction for the future of our country.

Today’s parents can face a difficult challenge. They need to make sure that their child will be ready for the academic rigor they will face at school, but they also need to be certain to protect the childhood tradition of free play. Finding an educational setting that combines these two goals is not always easy, but parents who cannot stay home with their children should force themselves to look for settings where their children can learn through playing with their peers and by learning to handle free time.

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