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outdoor freedom

August 4, 2009

Most of the time, when I’m thinking of activities to do with my children, I’m thinking of art or academic activities. I was reminded yesterday that art/academics are really unimportant at my children’s current ages (2 1/2 and 13 months). Really, the only reason we do them at all is that Asher took an interest in them naturally, and I followed his lead into the world of foam letters and finger paints. But if he had shown no interest, it would not have been an indicator of his cognition or social development. In fact, letters aren’t even mentioned on developmental tests for children under three, and writing is only a small fraction of measuring fine motor abilities. At their ages, engagement and the freedom to explore safely are the most important “activities” any of us can do with our children. Encouraging curiosity and conversation creates lifelong learners, and teaching the value of experience over performance is the antidote to our achievement-driven educational system.

Having said that, I am the worst at thinking in terms of goals and accomplishments in my daily life.  I am focusing on being more mindful of valuing the experience above performance. Last week we went “exploring” along a local walking path to find some much-needed physical activity and freedom from the rules of being inside. Loud voices were permitted, jumping in mud puddles was applauded, and touching everything at eye level was preferred. After an hour and a half, my children were calmer, cognitively satiated, and TIRED. My sons loved the freedom, and I loved the chance to just enjoy their company without the demands of keeping them out of the china cabinet.

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