Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Spend Time with Your Kids

by Ed Schmults, CEO

It's hard being a parent today (was it every easy?). So many choices to make. So much pressure to provide the right environment for your child to flourish and grow into Super Kid. After school programs, pre-school programs, pre-pre school programs, music, art, second languages, third languages, etc. All with well-meaning intent.

But if you ask just about any child development expert, he or she would tell you to let kids spend more time in unstructured play. They should spend more time with their parents. Parents should turn their Blackberries off and really be with their kids (I will never forget when my daughter gently took my Blackberry out of my hands so that I could pay attention to her). Commit to giving them a full hour of undivided attention. Shopping doesn’t count. Neither does watching TV together. Just spend time with them and play WITH them. Pay attention to your urge to structure how they play, and check that at the door. Let them take the lead. Let them bring you into their worlds. Let them exercise their imaginations and include you in them. You might be surprised how enriching that is for both of you.

Think about whether you are enrolling your child into classes and activities outside of your home simply because it's a way to get them out of your hair. Maybe it's a way for you to have some time for yourself without feeling guilty about it. Sure, it's nice to have a break once in a while, but over-scheduling outside the home can be shortchanging your child. Did you know that what they really want most of all is to feel close to you?

Two books that have really opened my eyes as a parent are The Power of Play by David Elkind and The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Both these books tell about the value of unstructured play in a child’s life. Maybe if you just let your kids play more, they might get into that fancy school after all!

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