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.
Read more about Developmentally Appropriate Practice:
DAP: What Does it Mean to Use Developmentally Appropriate Practice?
The Importance of a Good Foundation
Top photo by Leonid Mamchenkov.
Wish more people would wake up! Children these days are totally bogged down with what should only happen later. They end up depressed and miserable because too much is expected of them too early. And in many cases they actually become clinically depressed and prone to suicide. They aren’t given the time needed to learn and develop learning skills for the classroom, home and societal norms because they’re thrown in at the deep end.
Case in point: What my mother learned in mathematics in standard 10 (Grade 12) I was learning in Standard 8 (grade 10), and my step-son is doing now in Grade 9. My mother wouldn’t have dared to talk back to her parents, I was allowed to question with respect, todays children have no respect and totally disregard authority.
Children today tackle life without logic or reason because they don’t have the time to learn to be logical or to reason out a problem.
Yes, we want our children to be work ready when they leave school because not all people (especially in 3rd world countries) can afford a tertiary education, but then you should be descerning their skills trait and training them in a trade during school, not trying to make them into Einstein before they leave grade 12. You end up with a whole generation of adults that are failures because they didn’t make the standards required at school (which are currently purely academic), or with brain drain because there’s a glut of white collar workers and not enough jobs for them, and a resultant shortage of blue collar workers and no one who wants to do a job that appears inferior.
Sorry… my rant for the day.
Amen to both the post and the first comment! I am a mom of 3 boys and insist that they have time to play and learn those skills that are essential for life. That means no soccer at age 2 with the cousins or structured activities in the evenings. I am also a preschool teacher in a public school and like to have articles like this under my belt. We have an ethical responsibility to make sure what we do with children is in their best interest, not push down ideas that their little brains and bodies are not ready for. Thanks for this post, Amy!
Sorry – Amanda not Amy!
This is a FABULOUS post. I worked in a daycare center for years and saw this type of thinking far to often. I am a definite believer in letting kids be kids.
Right on! I’ve used the same analogy, too. Someone once said (and I’m sorry I can’t remember where I heard it) that learning shouldn’t be for the future; learning should be for now, for who the child is now. Yes, we want to build a foundation for future learning but we should create learning that is appropriate for who the child is now not for what he will be or will need later.
My favorite line (and I may quote you later): “They’ll do it later because that’s when it’s appropriate.” Thank you.
Very nice… and I completely agree.
I have used the “they need to do it in kindergarten” for our preschoolers but they were definitely things that were appropriate for the age, such as they need to be able to open their own milk cartons and get their own lunch service and eat an apple whole. We had many teachers who were doing these self-help skills for the children. Other than that though it is so important to keep the early years appropriate and meaningful. It was such a struggle for me to see how “academic” looking my son’s first grade classroom was this year.
Yes! I was starting to feel guilty about not practicing letters and numbers more with my almost 4year old because friends kept telling me about how they were using flashcards and their kids were writing their names, etc, etc. But my son showed zero interest in writing or recognizing letters, so I didn’t push. He adores being read to and speaks well, so I figured it would cone when he was ready. Well, all of a sudden about a month ago he started asking about letters and how to draw them and recognizing N (the first letter in his name) consistently. Now he is writing his name 🙂 So glad I trusted my mama instincts – I’m going to remember your comeback line from here on out, too!
I love this article! I feel like a better mom today after reading this for not pushing my kids so hard to be ahead of the pack. I know people who push there kids to the point where childhood escapes them. I want my kids to be kids as long as possible
Amy@Let's Explore says
Right on target, Amanda – love this! Kids don’t need to be getting ready for the next thing – they need to be fully engaged in the “right now.” Thank you for articulating it so well, and I love the driving example. 🙂
I LOVE this post! As usual, you articulated my thoughts perfectly!
This is one of my biggest pet peaves with preschool teachers. I actually heard a pre-K teacher say recently (in the first week of school) “Remember boys and girls, we’re practicing to be Kindergartners. We must walk in a straight line.” Why can’t we just let 4 year olds be 4 year olds?! Teachers of each age group are always trying to prepare children for the next age group. When will they ever get to act their age?
I love the example about driving a car – it’s perfect! Right now I’m more concerned with fostering my kids’ creativity and imaginations than teaching my 4-yr-old to read (even though she has told me she is interested in learning). They need a chance to be children!
(And I will confess that nothing bothers me more than the way schools seem to be training our kids to be cubicle dwellers. There’s nothing wrong with that… but there’s nothing wrong with carpentry either!)
Candace @NaturallyEducational says
I was just thinking about this yesterday and thinking that I want to write a post about it but it just doesn’t fit on any of my blogs!
This line of thinking drives me insane…you don’t have to go to far down the reductio ad absurdum line to show how silly it is.
There are so many things I want my children to be able to do *eventually*. That does not mean I have to throw them in the deep end before they are developmentally ready for it! Sure, lay the groundwork. But don’t keep pushing everything downward!
Amanda, this is brilliant! So true. “Why not get them started now?” is definitely one of my pet peeves. I hear this most often regarding technology, which is one of the most “brain-simple” things to learn and a big distraction for toddlers and preschoolers who need to spend their time on far more important things…like experiential *real life* learning. We make a big mistake teaching symbols (like letters and numbers) before our children have enough opportunity to touch, feel, see, experiment with and understand the real stuff. So, thank you for this wonderful reminder!!! (And the link is much appreciated, too!)
Kristen Duke Photography says