I hear it a lot. “They’ll do X later, so we might as we’ll have them start now.”
Standardized testing starts in third grade, so we’ll start “practicing” in kindergarten.
Children rotate through teachers in junior high, so we don’t need to worry about issues like continuity of care in the early years. They’re just getting ready.
We need proficient readers by the end of second grade, so let’s start using flashcards with babies.
I was sitting in a meeting recently where early childhood professionals were discussing this trend to push down curriculum, expectations, and standards and these were the types of answers they would get when they questioned practices that weren’t developmentally appropriate.
They’ll need to do it later, so let’s start now.
The backwards logic was striking to me. They’ll do it later because that’s when it’s appropriate. So I made this suggestion,“How about this. The next time someone offers that as their reasoning, ask them if they want one of their preschoolers to give them a ride home. They’ll probably need to drive later anyway, so we might as well start now.”
Framed that way, the logic is blatantly absurd. Forget about the eye-hand coordination, judgement, and knowledge of traffic laws and vehicle operation, a four year old just isn’t even tall enough to reach the pedals, hold the wheel, and see through the windshield all at once!
And yet we keep trying to put young children in situations they aren’t developmentally ready for. Whether it’s physically, cognitively, or emotionally, we have to accept the fact that development happens on a natural time table, not a mandated timeline that correlates with our grown-up objectives and plans.
Age does matter.
And when we begin to work with that instead of ignoring it, we are able to find more patience, provide more effective care, create impactful learning experiences, and prepare for authentic success.
Let them do X, Y, and Z later when they’re ready. Childhood is already so short. Let them do now, what they’re meant to do now.
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Top photo by Leonid Mamchenkov.