Not long after I had Tatum, I was under the impression that the more activities for her, the better it would be for her development. At a mere six months old, we were doing baby swim classes, mommy & me dance classes, library story time and having playdates with other baby friends. Every week we had something to attend. I thought it would help her develop socially (not sure why I was worried about that at six months of age) and mentally. This continued on into Tatum’s toddlerhood when I made sure to sign her up for every library program, YMCA activity, and museum outing as possible. I was positive that I was doing a great service for her — she was being exposed to many different environments, different people, and absorbing all of the wonderful information that was being thrown at her. Surely I was doing more for her this way than staying cooped up at home without access to all of these programs.
But soon I realized that Tatum and I were beginning to burn out. I was miserable, she was miserable. I could see that Tatum was feeling rushed and didn’t have as much time to play freely as a child needed to. Even David mentioned that it seemed that Tatum and I were always on our way out the door to go do some sort of activity. It was beginning to get overwhelming for everyone, and I realized that for not only Tatum’s sanity but my sanity as well that I needed to cut down on how many activities we were doing outside of the home.
Children need to be able to play freely at home, and often. This has been found to be essential to their growth and development. In a great article from The Doctor Will See You Now, it is said that free play “gives children a chance to find and develop a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.” Parents these days are made to feel that the more activities the better — organized sports, art lessons, toddler story time — and that they are essential for us to include in our children’s lives. But we need to let our kids BE. I realized this when Tatum didn’t seem excited to go to her activities anymore, and would act out. Once I started making our home the base of our family fun, she relaxed and when we did attend an activity, she would embrace it rather than dread it.
Over the past few years I’ve been reading a lot about incorporating Waldorf teachings into our home, and it seems right on point with what I feel is necessary for our little ones: make home your family’s foundation rather than just a place to sleep and eat. We have made more of our days about enjoying our time at home together instead of rushing around from place to place, barely having time to breathe let alone connect with one another. Life has been more enjoyable, and we have experienced a lot more bonding as a family.
It took a little while of constantly on-the-go days to realize that I wasn’t helping Tatum learn more or socialize better. She (WE!) need time at home without feeling rushed to truly enjoy each other and for her to blossom into the person she is meant to be. It’s not that I don’t think these programs and activities are a wonderful tool for parents — they are — but there is a time and a place for them and we can incorporate them into our schedule accordingly. It’s not necessary for us to be rushing to a program each day. Our lives are overscheduled as it is, and we don’t need our young ones to feel that pressure already.
Here’s a few more of my favourite articles about cutting down structured activities for children and the benefits of allowing them to play freely:
Where do you stand? Do you feel “the more the better” as far as children’s activities go? Or do you stick to one (or none)?