The fun—maybe sometimes lazy—days of summer are over and the hard, cold reality of sitting in a school classroom has set in. It wasn’t all that long ago the concept of early childhood education was singing songs, building blocks, dress-up corners, easels, and plenty of time playing with new friends outdoors.
Fast forward to the present, with the influence of No Child Left Behind and Common Core, young children are taught with standardized testing in mind. They’re bombarded with letters, numbers, colors, shapes—and I’m not just talking the standard circle, square, triangle and rectangle here folks—plus writing, reading and computer skills. There are rules of course, that’s always been a part of school. On top of developing patience, waiting to take your turn to talk by raising your hand or waiting your turn for to play with a toy young children must learn to line up! There are specialists—computer lab specialists, music or art docents plus, if that young child is really lucky, PE teachers! Recess—usually the favorite time of most every child’s day at school—has been significantly cutback and turned into an organized, instructed (sort of) physical activity.
And then there’s the prevalence of over-scheduling children with after-school activities plus, don’t forget, nightly homework! What’s the result of this change in focus? Kids—young kids especially—are coming away from a day at school STRESSED OUT!
Possible Signs of Stress in Young Children
|Crying Spells||Grinding Teeth|
|Excessive Aggressiveness||Respiratory Tract Illness|
As parent, you are your child’s first teacher and biggest advocate.
• One way to help your child cope is through PLAY!* Additionally,
• Say NO to over-scheduling! And
• Talk to your child’s teacher regarding their homework policy.
Always try to provide as much play time for your child as possible, particularly in the beginning of the school year, as they adjust to a new schedule and new expectations. Play provides an emotional outlet for children; it naturally can reduce anxiety.
Specifically, playing with sensory materials like our Aromatherplay™ dough which can be pounded, squeezed–manipulated provide a satisfying tactile as well as olfactory experience which has a calming effect. Playing with water also can soothe stressed-out kidlets. If your child likes to create art, then fingerpainting would be another great stress-reducing option.
Also, never underestimate the power of Mother Nature! It’s not hyperbole to say: “Get your child playing outdoors!”…and here’s why: Developing Mind, Body & Spirit Through Outdoor Play. Lastly, play and learning go hand-in-hand. They cannot be separated. Play addresses all areas of development; it is never a waste of time, but always multi-dimensional and rich with learning opportunities. Need more convincing? Read why Kids Engaging with Nature is good thing!
So when the school bell rings, let it signal the end of the day and the beginning of PLAY!
Yours in Play!
*There are other coping strategies discussed in the Caring Strategies to Guide Children article and, as always, you should see your child’s pediatrician for recommendations for a therapist or mental health specialist if you feel you need professional assistance.