At this time of year, our thoughts turn to wish lists and goals. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d let Santa know what I want for children in the new year. Here’s my list, in no particular order:
- Free play! That means child-initiated and child-directed. As much of it as possible, please. The drive to play is a vital part of nature’s plan, and when we deprive children of it, we are forever changing the course of their lives – and not in a good way.
- An end to shaming. No more punitive timeouts or ghastly behavior charts! It’s time for adults to realize that we can’t help a child become better by making him or her feel worse.
- Physical activity! When are adults going to understand they’re putting children’s heath at risk by allowing them to be sedentary? Some of the health risks are outlined here. Just last week there was yet another report determining that children in child care don’t get enough physical activity. Why is that, when we know they’re born to be physically active and that it keeps both their bodies and minds performing optimally?
- Two outdoor recesses a day and as much additional fresh air and sunshine as possible! Research proves the benefits of exposure to nature and outdoor light, including improved vision, behavior, and health. And there are numerous reasons why kids need recess, including the seven cited here. So, why are we keeping children indoors?
- An end to testing! Standardized tests are not indicative of intelligence, nor are they an adequate measure of what’s being learned. And testing for young children is ludicrous. It’s developmentally inappropriate and stressful; and it contributes to a dislike (if not hatred) of school.
- Less screen time! I’d like zero screen time, really. There’s just too much evidence coming down the pike about the hazards of screen time (language delays, myopia, and depression among them). Besides, young children need hands-on, authentic learning experiences – not virtual, one-dimensional encounters.
- The genuine positive reinforcement they crave from adults! That means our undivided attention and listening with our “whole face.” Please make the adults put down their phones, Santa!
- The freedom to take risks! In our efforts to overprotect children, we teach them to fear and keep them from becoming self-reliant, resilient problem solvers. It’s time we trusted children to figure out the appropriate risk levels for themselves.
- Enough downtime so they can find creatures in the clouds, daydream, and choose how they want to spend their time! Not only is downtime necessary for mental health; also, it contributes to imagination and problem solving, both of which will be essential for them in the future.
- No more attempts to accelerate child development! Adults need to respect and honor each stage of development and stop demanding that young children perform tasks for which they’re simply not equipped. That means, for example, that we don’t ask them to sit still to learn, to properly hold a pencil at age three, or to keep a journal while in kindergarten!
Yes, Santa, I know I’m asking a lot. But we’ve taken so much away from the little ones. We’ve asked them to grow up too fast. We’ve frightened them into helplessness. And we’ve made frustration, anxiety, and depression part of their lives! So, really, what I’m asking for is no more than what children are entitled to.
But here’s an idea: Why don’t I make it as simple as possible for you? If you would just return childhood to children, I’m sure that would make us all very happy!
Playfully yours — and with sincere thanks —