Since having a second child, I've really started to rethink the way I look at children and play. Many parents feel they need to have their children enrolled in numerous activities for them to get a step ahead in their earlier years. And whilst I do feel that it's important to expose them to varies activities in life to see what sparks an interest, and to help them socialise with others, I also feel it's extremely important that they are left to use their own imagination rather than have us instruct them on how to do everything.
I do worry about what the constant pushing is doing to future generations. That they may possibly grow up feeling like they are never doing enough, because as a child they were always pushed to do more activities, achieve more and learn faster.
In the book The Danish Way of Parenting written by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl, they say that it's important to create a sensory-rich environment coupled with play and to allow children to explore freely. It helps develop an internal compass and they are more likely to master something that brings them joy and do work in their adulthood which aligns with their true desires.
My son often complains that he doesn't know what to do. That he is bored. And I remember saying that oh so much when I was younger. But boredom is not a bad thing. It encourages a child to use their imagination. If we run to their aid with an activity, then it doesn't allow them to figure out how to use their free time on their own. We're providing a quick fix, a distraction.
Many of us, even adults could learn a thing or two about listening to our internal drive. And find activities for ourselves that give us that sense of flow. It helps as they state in the book to develop an internal locus of control. Internal meaning that a person feels they have a sense of control over their own life. External meaning they feel they are controlled by outside influences and not in control of their own fate. This can lead to feelings of helplessness. And relying on external approval or praise rather than trusting themselves.
There is also the term 'helicopter parent'. Which I'll admit to being at times. You're quick to jump in when something seems unsafe. To stop your child from steeling a toy from another. When your child is pushed by another. But children learn through challenging themselves. By testing the amount of stress they can handle. If we intervene too quickly then they are not learning how to cope with fearful situations.
So if we are providing constant entertainment to children through organised activities, electronic devices and being helicopter parents then what is this showing them? That they are possibly not in control of themselves and the decisions they make in life. To not notice their inner voice. To fear boredom and fearful situations and possibly become anxious.
Perhaps the best thing we can do in these earlier years is to send them into the backyard with a friend or two. With rocks to stack, a timber beam to climb over and leaves to throw around. With chalk to draw on the pavement with. And muddy puddles to get messy in. All those old-school activities that we seem to have forgotten, but are so crucial to our development and creative minds. And perhaps take a breath before running to their aid to stop them from taking a tumble.