Let kids play!

Parents and teachers should read — a lot — with children. And they should talk about numbers and math whenever children express interest in counting, adding or subtracting things. But some parents and schools are so over-emphasizing reading and math that they’re not only deadening what should be enjoyable learning experiences but also cutting out many other important activities children should be engaged in, unbalancing these children’s growth, leaving them stunted in other important ways.

Here’s an example:

Anthony DiCarlo, the longtime principal of the William E. Cottle Elementary School in Tuckahoe, N.Y., a suburb north of Manhattan, said that many children are experiencing delays in their fine and gross motor skills.

“Almost all our kids come into kindergarten able to recite their letters and their numbers,” Mr. DiCarlo said. “Some can even read. But in the last five years, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of kids who don’t have the strength in their hands to wield a scissors or do arts and crafts projects, which in turn prepares them for writing.”

Many kindergartners in his community, he said, have taken music appreciation classes or participated in adult-led sports teams or yoga. And most have also logged serious time in front of a television or a computer screen. But very few have had unlimited opportunities to run, jump and skip, or make mud pies and break twigs. “I’m all for academic rigor,” he said, “but these days I tell parents that letting their child mold clay, play in the sand or build with Play-Doh builds important school-readiness skills, too.”

Posted by James on Thursday, February 25, 2010