Let Downtime be Playtime

Q: We have a daughter who is going to kindergarten soon. Should we be preparing her by practicing letters, numbers, etc? We aren’t sure because she is already so busy … just finished swimming lessons and is starting preschool gymnastics.

A: Stop, stop. Whatever happened to lazy, hazy days for enjoying butterflies and birdsong, making sandcastles and watching the stars at night?! Children like having things to do, but they also need to learn what many adults never learn: how to relax and enjoy the simple things, like playing family games and savoring the beauty around you.

Don’t overschedule your child in your desire to give her extracurricular opportunities that she will be able to do at a later time. A little of that goes a long way. Children need time to play, do things with YOU, and to just “be.” If we plan all of their days, how will they ever learn to plan their OWN days? How will they ever learn to dream, imagine or enjoy having “nothing to do?”

These are good days to turn off the TV, sit around the table and play board games, or read stories together. Playing family games and enjoying daily stories will teach her all the school skills she needs.

Drilling children on counting and ABCs does not teach them to think or get the wheels turning in their heads, which is far more important. Today’s good kindergarten teachers want children to come to them eager to learn, confident, curious, healthy, able to express themselves, able to work in a group, and able to figure things out. Your home and yard are full of enjoyable opportunities to learn these skills.

Helping to prepare salads, fruits, snacks, shakes, pizza and desserts teaches counting, measuring, sorting, observing, explaining, estimating and fine motor skills.

Children learn about both science and nutrition as things are cooked, baked or combined. And there is no memory quite as special as baking cookies with mom or dad.

Helping with the laundry practices sorting, matching and folding. Setting the table teaches counting and one-to-one matching. Sorting bottle caps and buttons, shells and pebbles will teach much more math than rote counting.

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