Tuesday, March 7, 2017

To Heck with Preschool Readiness: Let Kids Be Kids

By: Elizabeth Redhead Kriston

If I could remember being two or even three years old, I am certain that my memories would be of me playing with a pile of blocks and dolls. I guarantee my memories would not involve my mother subjecting me to flashcards trying to make flipping through the numbers, shapes, and colors seem fun. Nor would they involve battery operated “learning toys” that featured a toad sporting a ball cap that judgingly stared at me as I ineptly tried to operate the machine as if I was the dumby. No, I think my toddler years focused less on school work and more on good old fashioned play.

I bring this up because yesterday I sat and listened to a young mom fret that her one year old child was “not smart” and was “not going to get into preschool” because he did not know his colors yet. Her worry, though sad, was genuine, and I argue, misguided.

“More than 90% of parents agonize that their child is not as smart as other children

Sadly, this mom’s fears are not unique. More than 90% of parents agonize that their child is not as smart as other children. Okay, I totally made up that statistic, but based on my daily interactions with parents, I think it is a valid percentage.

At my real job, I work with kids who can’t talk or eat safely. Kids who have trouble relating to other people. Children who are very, very sick. Children who can’t hear or see. In nearly every single case, the mom or dad or grandma shows me, with great pride, all of the “learning toys” that they have for their beloved child to use.

As in aprevious blog, I still argue that these toys are mostly overpriced on/off buttons as most toddlers love to turn them on and then turn them off over and over until you want to either rip your ears off or toss the toy into the Atlantic, even if it means driving 3 ½ hours to get there just for the satisfaction of watching it be swallowed by the icy, gray waves of the roiling sea.

Nevertheless, we still cave to the pressures of genius advertising campaigns and the neighbor who gloats that her ten-month-old can do his multiplication tables and recite Shakespeare while peeing on the potty. So, we purchase these toys and try to convince our kids that they are fun in hopes that we can force them to be better and smarter, and let’s face it, kind of nerdy (not that nerds aren’t awesome; it’s just that baby nerds should not be a thing).

“Let him feel the wonder and excitement of his life.”

In the meantime, we are missing so many amazing opportunities to let our kids have fun. I’ll tell you what I told this mom, “Let your kid be a kid. Let him feel the wonder and excitement of his life. Let him explore and be silly. Let him play with toys that don’t require batteries. Let him explore all the things that nature and the house have to offer. Talk to him. Sing to him. Read to him. Most importantly, enjoy him for who he is, not for who you think he should be” (you can do that later when he becomes sulky teenager who dislikes everything, and I mean everything, about you).

“Take the time to imprint his whimsical silly self into your memories.”

Translation: Let him eat Play-Doh. Let him stack canned soup and beans until they crash down and terrify the sleeping dog. Let him roll in the mud outside and discover earthworms naturally. Let him be bored. Let him dance, sing, and lick glass (Seriously, so much can be learned by licking things. Tad the Leap Toad never teaches kids to do that). Take the time to imprint his whimsical silly self into your memories, you’ll need to tap into that later.

In my earliest years, I bet I spent countless hours licking and eating things that maybe should not have been part of my diet. I imagine I danced to the warbled tunes cranked-out

by my little wind-up record player (high tech equipment in the ‘70’s). I bet I jumped on my bed and climbed into boxes preferring them to the toys that I dumped out of them.
Maybe I learned my colors and shapes and numbers along the way. Maybe just touching and tasting and seeing and feeling and hearing things gave me the core skills I needed to be a successful preschooler.

“Home should be the place you learn to love life”

Preschool should be filled with the learning of educational skills like how to steal back your toy train from that the mean, train-hoarding kid who ripped it from your hands. It should be filled with eating paste and peeing your pants (of course children must be potty trained to go to preschool nowadays, sheesh. My preschool teachers sent me home toting a plastic bag of urine-soaked pants and wearing different clothes every day because I did not grasp the whole “pee goes in the toilet” movement).

Preschool should be the place that you start to learn shapes and numbers and letters and colors. Home should be the place you learn to love life, learn to have fun, and learn to be a kid.

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  1. I love this!

    Former Dirt Eater

    1. Thank you! I hope someday more parents will learn to let toddlers just be toddlers!

  2. I really like this blog. Be happy for the child you have and have fun. Plenty of time for ABC etc in preschool!!!