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Many parents view school as the place to learn and the home as the place to play.

With parents pushing for their children to be more academically successful or ahead of the curve year-on-year, the environment provided to preschool children is more education-focused than ever before.

With parents providing children with:
  • Enrichment classes
  • Additional lessons
  • Music classes
  • Educational puzzles and tools
  • Language tutoring

Modern pre-schoolers play & effects

Every waking hour of the day is accounted for when it comes to modern pre-schoolers, children have less time just to be children than any other previous generation by a long shot. As a society, we are pushing our children to be better, do more and achieve greater things for every second of their day, with each minute scheduled with something educational and useful for their later life.

But with such a focus on achieving and succeeding, the actual needs of children are being put to one side to best prepare them for their future. Without the opportunity to play, develop and grow, those same children who are learning math, writing and reading at earlier and earlier ages aren’t getting the all-important life skills they need as part of their growth. If no time in the schedule is set aside for play, children suffer.

Something pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom discovered with her own daughter, who exceeded expectation in all academic areas but was far behind on other essential life skills, such as taking turns, sharing and even controlling her emotions. Children who are made to focus on academic learning at too young an age can experience all kinds of different issues as a result of the way they are raised, including anxiety and sensory issues, as well as their independence and ability to communicate with other children.

As fewer children are given to time to play, be creative and have fun with other children, more and more cases of children struggling to cope in a preschool setting are being seen by professionals. In fact, psychologists have suggested in the long-term this focus on academic skills over more useful life lessons can have a severe impact on the mental health of those children.

This difficulty in coping is reflected in the behavior of children now entering preschool whose whole lives have been dictated by academic success, with common effects including:
  • Inability to connect or play with other children or share with classmates
  • Difficulty in managing and controlling emotions when frustrated or upset
  • Struggling to sit or use finer motor skills effectively, including spatial awareness
  • Problems with entertaining themselves or playing alone or in groups without direct input and direction from an adult

Give children the freedom to grow

All of these behaviors and more are direct impacts of how young children are now raised. Instead of simply focusing on academic prowess, it’s important that parents also give children the freedom to grow and develop their independence. Even if that means cutting down their bus academic schedule to something more realistic. Physical activity, movement, and play are all crucial ways in which children develop and learn to understand the world, and shouldn’t be understated when it comes to turning happy toddlers into well-adjusted children.

Beyond those physical skills, though, soft skills are also ones that are vital for parents to provide to their children, beyond knowing their A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s. The ability to share, for example, and to play quietly as well as join in with other children are all vitally important for success in a world where communication and socialization are a must. Solely focusing on one element of a child’s upbringing fails to offer that balance, and can have serious effects both mentally and physically later on in life.

What are the lessons parents can take away from the current issue with preschool development?

It’s all about striking a balance. Of course, children need to be as academically prepared as they can be, but this should be half or less of the time spent working on their development and helping your child to grow. Instead, divide your focus between the academic and softer skills, and your child is far more likely to achieve balance in their own lives later on.

Especially when it comes to emotional capacity and ability to cope, offering parenting that’s more than just academic is a must. For children to be well-rounded, opting to sacrifice some of those extra lessons for a little more freedom isn’t optional. Do you think pre-schoolers are struggling more than ever, or do you disagree that over-education has had a severe impact on how children are developing? Let us know in the comments below.