From birth, we’re told to put our children on a schedule – or at least be aware of patterns throughout the day. There are so many thoughts on what type of schedule is the best. Feeding schedules, sleep schedules, activity schedules. Just the scheduling is exhausting, nevermind the activities themselves! I’m thinking perhaps unscheduling may be the way to go.
My kiddos are only 3 and 1, but I can’t believe how many people assume they’re already in some sort of program – or soon will be. It’s expected that our children will just be put somewhere, rather than remain with their parents. And for kids that young, I bet any “classes” they take equate to playtime at home. I understand there are different situations, some parents may not have much of a choice, but I always feel bad when I see daycare signs that advertise admitting children as young as 6 weeks (or less). I firmly believe babies and young children need to be around their parents; they may survive just fine around other people, but I don’t believe they will learn and thrive and grow to the same extent.
I was so disappointed that I had to return the library copy of Simplicity Parenting since there was a hold on it, but I was able to read this chapter. I agree with what some of the other mamas have said, feeling like it gives us “permission” to say enough to the busy-ness, even though we still often feel like we need to be doing more! Especially if it’s “educational,” right? “Activity without downtime is ultimately unsustainable; excess ‘enrichment’ is not soaking in.” At young ages, kids just need to be kids and explore their worlds.
I bring my kiddos to storytime at the library every week, since we’re already there to get books/movies. There’s a playground right next door, which means even more interaction for them. We go to church every Sunday; the littlest one is in the nursery, and the older one has Sunday School. Even just running errands and getting outside, we interact with lots of people and get to enjoy many activities (especially when the weather is nice). I like that my children interact with people of all ages, since only being with their peer group creates an unrealistic environment.
Playdates are a good idea in theory, I suppose, but I’m not too crazy about them. Putting a bunch of kids together with a bunch of toys just equals a headache; you spend the whole time teaching them how to share and get along! It’s hard enough at your own home, nevermind trying to adapt to someone else’s rules. Then try to carry on a conversation at the same time! It’s exhausting for me, really. I do, however, enjoy getting together one-on-one with friends and their children for specific activities from time to time.
As your kids get older, I suppose trying to find the balance between activity and calm becomes more of a challenge. Right now, we have specific days when we do routine things (church, grocery store, library), and since I consider running errands “activities” for my kiddos, I try to limit how much I go out the rest of the week. We’re homebodies, but sometimes I feel the need to get out of the house or I’ll go crazy. We may go to the zoo or the beach when the weather is nice (which means a longer day), or head to the farmers’ market on the weekend. I notice that we usually need to “recover” from a long day, and the kiddos get really tired and fussy if I don’t make a point to slow down. “Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity. Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity.”
I, too, was somewhat disturbed reading the statistics on children involved in organized sports at younger and younger ages these days. Sure, it’s cute – but seriously? I played soccer for a number of years when I was younger, but even as I got older the focus was mainly about having fun and creating a sense of teamwork rather than being the best and winning the game.
One of the points made in this chapter, is that no matter how much your children may enjoy something or want to do it, it doesn’t mean it’s in his or her best interest to overschedule. I keep thinking how much my 3-year-old seems to enjoy structured social activities (Sunday School, storytime, kids’ Bible class at her grandmother’s church), but that doesn’t mean that more equals is better. I hope to homeschool my children, and sometimes I think, Why not put her in public school? She may enjoy it, and I won’t have to teach her. But then I remind myself of what’s better for her in the long run.
I loved the section on the importance of boredom, but I don’t think my kids are old enough to understand that concept yet (and come to think of it, I don’t think we ever say the word). There’s always something for them to do, and my daughter especially is very creative, good at playing by herself. “You can’t direct [deep play]; you can only leave time for it and trust that leisure and activity will nurture your child’s creativity.” I think sometimes when they’re tired or not feeling well, they don’t necessarily want to play with the things they have, but that’s another matter.
Some of our best days are spent outside in the front yard – the kids find cool rocks, dig holes in the dirt, draw with sidewalk chalk, and run after the guinea hens that come through our yard. We also have a blast when we go peach-picking, spend a day swimming at the beach, or pick our favorite animal at the zoo… but I think that’s because we make these once-in-a-while activities rather than every day occurrences.