Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are We Robbing Our Kids of a Childhood?

New Research: Are We Robbing Our Kids of a Childhood?
Did you know that 75% of all American children are enrolled in daycare centers?   A new study was published this week in the American Journal of Pediatrics that finds that these daycare children are largely sedentary and are only spending 2-3% of their day doing vigorous physical activity.  This is way down from the recommended levels and it means that the vast majority of American children are starting out their lives way behind in gross motor skills.  The researchers found three reasons for the largely sedentary lifestyle in day cares:

1.  Injury concerns (Daycare providers are afraid of being sued and also say that parents urge them not to let the children play vigorously, for fear of injury)
2.  Financial (They don't have the money to buy safe equipment and also state that the equipment that is "safe" isn't interesting or fun for kids so they don't see any reason to waste the money.  That's ironic, isn't it?)
3.  Emphasis on academics (Society has placed such importance on reading and test scores that parents are feeling the pressure and are worried their kids won't know the letters and numbers at an early age.  The daycare centers that were studied stated that parents were more concerned about what their children "learned" that day, rather than how much they played and that parents put a lot of pressure on the daycare centers to emphasize academics to "prepare" children for school.)

My kids don't go to daycare, but my observation is that most daycares are wonderful.  The teachers really do care about the children and there are regulations in place that keep things very safe and clean.  However, according this study, the problem is that after kids get home from daycare, it's often time to have dinner and a bath and go to bed, so the daytime is the only time they would have to play outside and play vigorously and since they aren't getting it there, they might not be getting it at all.

Think back for a minute to when you were a kid.  Do you remember sitting around learning numbers and letters?  Of course not.  You remember riding bikes to the pool, catching fireflies, or maybe climbing a tree with your best friend.  Obviously children need to read, but people have been learning to read for hundreds and thousands of years, so why do we think we need to drill this into our children's head at age 3?  Why do we think we need computer programs to teach our children to read?

I have heard that many Kindergarten teachers are now using computer programs to teach children how to read.  Can you imagine?  Many experts maintain that children learn by doing, by interacting, and by touching, and not by computers.  I'm sure computers are fine in moderation, but I find it extremely alarming that any school would use a computer program as the primary teaching plan for the academic year.  It's almost like schools don't care about fun, social skills, or problem-solving.  They only care about test scores. 

To me, this illustrates so clearly how the emphasis on academics is stealing childhood from our children.  As parents, I think we need to protest.  The pressure for children to perform well in school is so intense that people feel the need to start preparing at age 2 or 3.  I know that I feel the pressure sometimes.  I don't want my kids to get behind, but I think we need to draw a line somewhere.  Homework is getting so out of control in many grade schools that kids don't even have time to play outside after school.  This is tragic.  Getting a good score when they are ten years old doesn't guarantee success in life.  People grow up to be successful and happy in life when they are confident, self-reliant, and aren't lazy and are willing to work for success.  When we deprive our children the opportunity to play outside and play with other children, we rob them of chances to learn these valuable skills.  Let's give our children something to remember about their childhood, other than sitting in front of a computer while they learn numbers and letters.  Let's make some memories with our kids and quit worrying so much about test scores.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not a perfect Mom by any means, but I LOVE watching my kids play vigorously and get exercise.  After all, see what kids can do if we just give them some time to be kids?  

They wrestle

They catch leaves

They Gather Rocks

They Play With Laundry Baskets

They Swing

They Play In The Dirt

After all, isn't this what having kids is all about?  What do you think??  Am I wrong??

Also, I would really love it if you would buy my book!!  If you have ever tried to cook dinner while your kids clung to your legs, this is the book for you!  You aren't the only Mom out there who wondered why the kids make you crazy!  We packed the book full of step-by-step instructions on what craft supplies to buy, how to do non-messy crafts, and also some ideas on activities that will truly interest your kids so they are busy while you cook dinner! I really do think it can help Moms.  We've gotten some great feedback so far and the reviews on Amazon have been really solid if you want some other opinions before you buy.  Plus, my co-author, Susan Case, is a former Kindergarten teacher and is wonderful resource and you will learn so much from her.  And if you do, PLEASE come back and tell me what you think!  I can't thank you all enough for your support.

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  1. I love this post and agree with you completely!

  2. you are not wrong at all

    in fact
    much of what you wrote about
    contributed to our decision to home school
    our kids

    i still can't understand why
    we must coop up children
    in a classroom for nearly 8 hours a day
    and then send them home with homework

    my kids finish their school work by lunch
    and are out the door
    or up in their rooms playing
    and getting to be kids

    thanks for the post!


  3. I have been a pre-school day care teacher for 19 years.. and my kids danced, had fun.. learned things without knowing and more... I am a stay at home mom now... I miss it a lot... but my son is in school... so it's time to look for a job... while he is in school. Enjoyed the post.

  4. Now, I don't have much experience with daycare. My kids have never gone. But, I do agree that our children are totally having their childhood taken from them. It makes me sad, really. Poor things.

  5. My boys are in daycare but its a great daycare. I am great friends with their teachers. I pop up alot to see what my boys are doing and see that they do run and play alot. All daycare probably arent this way. I agree that kids do not play or are as active as when I was a kid. I limit my kids esposuure to tv and the computer. When my oldest son ask me what he should do I tell him to use his imagination.

  6. This is so true, I totally agree with you. The place I work for is a Head Start, so it is mostly child-directed learning based on their interests which I really like, but I have seen a some of what you are talking about in other places. Children learn best when they are choosing what to learn about, exploring on their own and asking the questions. Sometimes, we just have to step back and let them figure things out on their own. Great post. Thanks for following and commenting on my blog!
    Lori @ Cachey Mama’s Classroom

  7. Great post!! Let Children Experience Childhood.

  8. So very true. I think even adding the video game era to this thought is scary as well. I didn't play video games during the summer. I was outside playing made up games using bouncy balls and sticks.

  9. I totally agree! I've been fortunate to stay at home with my kids for the most part. Before my 3rd, I taught Kindermusik and they got to come with me and be my partner. Now the girls are in school. My oldest is just in 1st grade and she's got homework every night. It's just reading and some math games at this point, but she's not home until 4 and bedtime's at 8. Add dinner to that and she's basically got an hour and half of free time. I'd rather let her run around the house and play and play and play then make her sit down and practice writing words and numbers. She just finished doing that all day in school! Needless to say, sometimes we only get through the book and I am OK with that!

  10. I just stumbled onto your blog from one of the blog hops, and I love this post! No, my kids don't go to daycare, but I know for many working parents they are essential and very helpful in providing care for their children. Nothing wrong with that. But I do agree that there needs to be a bit more emphasis on playing and exercising. Yes, my oldest new her ABCs and could count to 10 in english and spanish by the time she was 2 1/2, but she also spent a huge part of the day outside playing. She's in 2nd grade now and does wonderfully in school! We need to stop putting so much pressure on our kids and let them learn a little more naturally. Oh yeah, I'm your newest follower too! :)

  11. That is so sad. Kids learn best from experiences! We send our daughter to daycare and are lucky enough that they really engage the kids and take them on walks. I found you from the Reflections blog hop. You can follow me at

  12. I went to daycare center as a child. When I look back on it now, I realize that it was a horrible place for us kids. When I was younger, I blamed the teachers but now I realize that they were probably the only people fighting for us. It was a broken system. I've spoken to many of my friends who went to this same daycare... all of them with children are now SAHM like myself while the rest refuse to have kids. I sent out a questionnaire asking friends what they thought... many said that they either blocked out, didn't want to talk about it, or remembered a few moments good and bad. I encourage people to really look at the place that they are sending their children. Make daytime unannounced visits. Ask your child what they did that day, if they were given anything to eat or drink (my basic needs were never met such as food and water, yes it was THAT bad), and if they had fun and moved around. At this place we were typically forced to watch movies 24/7. ~Jess

  13. I agree. We focus so much on academics, while imaginative play and exercise are overlooked. hence, our children are getting FAT. I'm lucky enough to be a SAHM, but I still need to remind myself to have dancing time and to go outside everyday (which is rough in 110+ summers). You can only practice letters or sight words so much. Kids need exposure to so many things. How many kids even know where vegetables come from?


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